Disney delays reopening of California theme parks amid surge of new COVID-19 cases

Disney said Wednesday that the company will delay the phased reopening of its theme parks in Anaheim, California.

“The State of California has now indicated that it will not issue theme park reopening guidelines until sometime after July 4. Given the time required for us to bring thousands of cast members back to work and restart our business, we have no choice but to delay the reopening of our theme parks and resort hotels until we receive approval from government officials. Once we have a clearer understanding of when guidelines will be released, we expect to be able to communicate a reopening date,” Disney said in a statement.

The Disneyland Resort, which is home to two theme parks — Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, was scheduled to reopen on July 17, pending state and local government approvals, after being closed for months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an earlier Disney plan announced last month.

July 17 is the 65th anniversary of the opening day of Disneyland Park.

“We developed enhanced health and safety protocols for both cast and guests at Shanghai Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort that have been approved, allowing us to reopen in a responsible manner and bring our cast members back to work,” the company said.

As a result of COVID-19, Disney closed its North American parks and resorts, cruise line business and Disneyland Paris in mid-March, while the company’s Asia parks and resorts were closed even earlier.

A coalition of labor unions representing 17,000 Disneyland Resort employees expressed their concern over the July reopening plan in a letter last week to California governor Gavin Newsom, saying that they were “not yet convinced it is safe to reopen the parks” despite intensive talks with the company.

Disney explained on Wednesday that the company has “had positive discussions and (we) are very pleased to have signed agreements from 20 union affiliates, including the Master Services Council, which represents more than 11,000 of our cast members.”

California’s new COVID-19 cases continued to rise in recent days as the most populous state in the United States is moving forward with its reopening plans. The state saw a 69 percent increase in new cases in just two days as it reported 7,149 new cases of COVID-19 over a 24-hour span on Wednesday, shattering the daily record for new infections for a second straight day.

The company said that the signed agreement details plans that include enhanced safety protocols that will allow the company to responsibly reopen and get thousands of its cast members back to work.

Disney reopened Shanghai Disneyland on May 11 under a slew of health and safety measures, becoming the first among six Disney theme parks worldwide to welcome visitors again since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The company said last month that COVID-19’s estimated impact on the U.S. entertainment giant’s income from continuing operations before income taxes was as much as 1.4 billion U.S. dollars during the second quarter for the fiscal year 2020.