Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, California, has been closed since March 2020.
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For the first time in its 65-year history, Disneyland announced it would close its gates for an entire month in 2020. Due to the spread of COVID-19, the iconic California theme parks shut down on March 12 — and have remained shut. Ever since, we’ve all been wondering when Disneyland can open, and why it hasn’t while Disney’s other global theme parks were free to reopen, including Walt Disney World on the opposite coast of the US.Disneyland initially announced an optimistic reopening date of July 17, its 65th anniversary. But it was forced to backtrack on those plans in late June, when California refused to issue theme park guidance.
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“We have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials,” Disney Parks tweeted at the time.So when can Disneyland reopen?California finally revealed its theme park reopening guidelines on Oct. 20: The state will allow large parks like Disneyland to open only once the county they’re in is in the “yellow,” or minimal, tier of COVID-19 transmission, meaning Orange County must have less than one daily new case of coronavirus per 100,000 people, as well as less than 2% of tests coming back positive.Orange County has regressed from the red tier to the purple since this announcement, with “widespread” cases of COVID-19. As of Dec. 15, it has 78.1 new cases per day per 100,000 people with a 15.2% positive rate on test results. Those numbers have risen significantly every week since the announcement of theme park guidance as coronavirus cases skyrocket across California, so reopening is definitely off the table for now.Disney protested the strict rules when they were announced, calling them “arbitrary” and “unworkable.” Disneyland President Ken Potrock said the company has proved it can open responsibly. “The state of California continues to ignore this fact,” he said. “State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future … irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community.”But California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Oct. 20 he does “believe that it is possible” for Orange County to reach the yellow tier, pointing out that San Francisco County has already done so. Ghaly added it’ll take hard work, constant vigilance, widespread testing and contact tracing.During Disney’s earnings call on Nov. 12, the company said it sees Disneyland remaining closed through Disney’s first fiscal quarter of 2021, so at least until the end of December 2020.What will Disneyland look like when it reopens?Once Disneyland does reopen, park capacity will be limited to 25% and reservations will be required. Plexiglass has already been installed in the park entry points.Smaller theme parks — those with a total capacity of 15,000 people or fewer — are permitted to reopen once their county reaches the orange or “moderate” tier, but they’ll be capped at 25% attendance or 500 people, whichever is less; only outdoor attractions can be open; reservations are required; and only locals can attend.While we’re waiting for the parks to reopen, you can check out some behind-the-scenes magic on the Disney Parks TikTok account, or the Disney Parks YouTube channel.Downtown Disney and part of California Adventure reopened – and closed againThe Downtown Disney shopping and dining area reopened July 9 in line with California’s restaurant and retail opening guidelines. It was followed by the main street area of California Adventure theme park on Nov. 19, including Buena Vista Street and part of the streets branching from there.However, as of December Orange County was subject to strict stay-at-home orders due to ICU capacity falling below 15%. California Adventure was forced to close down again, with restaurants also closing in Downtown Disney. While California Adventure was open, it included all stores in those area, as well as dining locations like the Carthay Circle Lounge, Smokejumper’s Grill, Award Wieners, Starbucks and churros and popcorn carts. Disney had yet to announce whether it was planning to similarly reopen the shopping and dining locations along Main Street USA inside of Disneyland.
Downtown Disney is still open from 9am to 9pm daily, but only eateries that offer take-out have been permitted to remain open as long as guests don’t consume the food in the area. Some retail stores remain open. Only the Simba parking lot is available for parking; guests are temperature screened before being permitted entry; hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations are present throughout the area; face masks are mandatory; and there are ground markings for social distancing. Capacity is also restricted.Why was Disney World allowed to reopen?Disney was able to reopen the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on July 11, with Epcot and Hollywood Studios soon following on July 15. It was permitted to do so by Florida’s less-strict state and local guidelines.The Orlando Disney parks have social distancing and wellness measures, including temperature screenings, wearings masks, keeping guests six feet apart while lining up for attractions and a guest reservation system to limit capacity. Fireworks have also been suspended.Disney Springs shopping and dining area reopened on May 20 with limited parking, fewer entrances, temperature screening before entry, masks required, physically distanced lines and barriers, reduced hours, no entertainment and more sanitization and disinfectant. Disney-owned stores and restaurants in Disney Springs began reopening May 27.Layoffs across the US theme parks businessVacationers aren’t the only ones affected by Disneyland’s continuing closure — Disney announced on Sept. 29 it will lay off 28,000 US employees, assigning the blame on reduced capacity at its theme parks due to social distancing requirements, as well as California’s “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.”In an SEC filing on Nov. 26, however, Disney revealed it would be laying off an additional 4,000 employees for 32,000 in total.”We have made the very difficult decision to begin the process of reducing our workforce at our Parks, Experiences and Products segment at all levels, having kept non-working cast members on furlough since April while paying healthcare benefits,” Josh D’Amaro, Disney Parks chair, said in a statement in September. “Approximately 28,000 domestic employees will be affected, of which about 67% are part time.”Disneyland reached an agreement with 11 unions representing its workers as of Oct. 14, according to The Orange County Register, so that it can be ready to open immediately. The California Health and Human Services Agency reportedly sent state health officials to assess Disney World in Florida during the first week of October, the Los Angeles Times reported.
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