Gavin Newsom Sets Impossible-to-Meet Standard for Theme Park Reopening

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2015 file photo, visitors walk toward Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif. Authorities say thieves made off with 8,000 Disneyland tickets when they stole a box trailer from a youth agricultural education organization. The California Highway Patrol says the trailer is owned by Future Farmers of America and was stolen Wednesday, April 18, 2018, from the group's office in the city of Galt, south of Sacramento. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

 

California residents, particularly those in Southern California, were hopeful (no, we haven’t learned our lesson) that when Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-PlumpJack) announced the state guidance for reopening theme parks Tuesday there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. Disney executives have been hammering Newsom; they laid off 28,000 employees in September, and have been operating in Florida without a spike in cases occurring. While some True Believers mocked those protesting the continued theme park lockdowns, the desire to have this industry reopened isn’t because everyone wants to go ride It’s a Small World. The shuttering of theme parks has devastated not just the people who work there, but the entire tourist industry – particularly in Orange County.

Newsom and California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Mark Ghaly announced in a noontime press conference that large theme parks wouldn’t be able to open until the county they’re located in reaches the least-restrictive yellow tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Healthy Economy – a nearly impossible task. Immediately, Californians of all stripes unleashed on the Governor on Twitter, and theme park presidents were quick to issue statements slamming Newsom and predicting irreparable harm (ooh, might that be a cause for them to seek a temporary restraining order against the Gov?).

Why? Put simply, to get into the yellow tier a county has to have a positivity rate lower than what’s widely believed as the coronavirus test’s false positive rate, somewhere between 1 and 3 percent.

Here’s the official graphic showing the state’s tiers – notice that there is no “Green” level where California can go back to pre-pandemic activity, and the only things that matter are case rate, positivity rate, and the “health equity” metric I discussed in a prior article. Death rate, hospitalization rate, ventilator usage, and ICU bed usage doesn’t matter anymore.

To move into the yellow tier, a county must have less than a 2% positivity rate, which is right in the middle of the estimated false positive rate, and lower than the University of California Hospitals false positive rate (2.15 percent) reported for the week ending September 18.

There are nine counties in the yellow tier right now, almost all of which are extremely rural counties the pandemic never really touched. The exception is San Francisco County, which is curious, and something I’ll need to look into further.

Twitter user Ian Miller posted a graphic showing just how ridiculous California’s reopening tiers are, noting that not a single US state that would be within the yellow tier.

Here’s a closer look at Miller’s graphic:

Credit: Twitter/@ianmSC

Obviously, there’s nothing in The Science™ to justify these continued lockdowns, which will decimate Orange County. It’s as if Newsom doesn’t realize the relationship between producers/revenue generators in a state and the amount of tax revenue available for the state to spend.

Ken Potrock, President of Disneyland resort, invoked the labor unions in his statement and predicted that keeping the parks shuttered will “irreparably devastat[e] the Anaheim/Southern California community”:

“We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world. Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities.

“Together with our labor unions, we want to get people back to work, but these State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community.”

Cedar Fair’s Raffi Kaprelyan, whose company operates Knott’s Berry Farm, California’s Great America, and Gilroy Gardens argued that his company was already effectively prveneting transmission in their parks:

“Our company has safely operated 7 of its 13 parks across the U.S. this year with zero cases of COVID-19 being traced back to our properties.”

Kurt Stocks, President of LEGOLAND California was blunt:

“The guidance issued today by the state is arbitrary and unacceptable to the industry. Not allowing theme parks to open until Tier 4 will destroy the industry in California and the economic impact to industries that rely heavily on theme parks will be catastrophic. The administration’s actions to this point have cost tens of thousands of jobs across the industry, and today’s announcement will all but confirm that thousands more will be lost.

LEGOLAND® California Resort has developed a comprehensive and robust reopening plan, taking every precaution to meet and exceed guidelines given to other businesses and industries since voluntarily closing seven months ago. All seven other LEGOLAND Parks around the world have reopened safely with millions of guests and twenty thousand employees going through the gates without any COVID-19 incidents. The guidance from the Governor is grossly inconsistent with the guidelines given to other industries and lacks any scientific basis that can be supported by the CDPH.”

Universal Studios Hollywood’s Karen Irwin likewise slammed the lack of scientific rationale for the guidelines:

“Pushing us into Tier Four behind other businesses that have already reopened makes no sense. It ignores science, reason and the economic devastation this will bring to the thousands of our employees, the indirect businesses that rely on us, and our industry overall.”

The complete press release from industry members can be read here.

Theme parks and the restaurants, hotels, and shuttle services that support them should just open up en masse. Newsom doesn’t have enough enforcers to shut it all down forcibly. Calm, peaceful resistance is the way to go here.