Hollywood Reporter: Disneyland v. Gov. Newsom: When Will the Standoff Over Reopening End?

The iconic Anaheim park is a vaccination site while the Hollywood giant is locked in a stalemate with the embattled Democrat to speed up the return of visitors and employees.

It’s the quiet Mike Morrison finds most striking. A Disneyland Resort employee for 16 years, the manager of engineering services for Anaheim’s California Adventure Park is used to the bustle that accompanies one of the most popular theme parks in the world. But for nearly one year now, the Disneyland Resort has been shuttered amid the pandemic.

“The days feel longer,” says Morrison, who leads the team responsible for the maintenance of the attractions in California Adventure even when there are no visitors. “You have this eerie sense of silence as you’re walking through. And occasionally that silence is broken by the chirping of birds, something from the outside world that you would never typically notice.”

Disneyland closed its gates March 14, 2020. Before that time, the park only had been shut for 24-hour periods after major national events, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Locked in a standoff with Gov. Gavin Newsom on when the park can reopen amid a pandemic, Disney has taken a financial hit — $2.6 billion in the past quarter alone — and furloughed thousands of employees who don’t know when they’ll return to work. And the Democrat is facing political pressure to reopen more businesses as organizers aim to collect 1.49 million signatures before a March 17 deadline to kick-start a recall election.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu notes that the theme park’s closure has had a “profound impact” on the region. “Unemployment in our city is now 9 percent, or 15,000 people, and has been as high as 12 percent — numbers not seen since the Great Recession,” Sidhu says. “Anaheim faces a $115 million budget deficit from lost revenue from hotel stays and visitor spending.”

An effort is underway to break the stalemate with the state. On Feb. 4, California Assembly Members Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Buena Park) and Suzette Valladares (R-Santa Clarita) proposed legislation aimed at speeding along a reopening. The bill would allow Disneyland to reopen if Orange County moves into the “moderate” pandemic risk tier (a seven-day average rate of 1 to 3.9 cases per 100,000 tests) rather than when it hits the “minimal” tier (less than 1 case per 100,000 tests). The county remains in the “widespread” tier as of March 1 with 11.7 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 tests. Disney hasn’t commented on the bill, but Sidhu’s office has endorsed it.