There’s more grim news on the Disneyland front: The theme park is reportedly furloughing more more workers as its closure enters its ninth month.
On Monday evening, The Orange County Register and Variety both published excerpts of a staff memo from Disneyland President Ken Potrock announcing more temporary job cuts.
“Since Disneyland resort closed its gates in March, nothing has been more important than fully reopening and getting our cast members back to work,” Potrock wrote. “That’s why it is with heavy hearts we find ourselves in the untenable situation of having to institute additional furloughs for our executive, salaried and hourly cast.”
While Potrock’s memo did not appear to specify an exact number, The OC Register and The Long Beach Press-Telegram both put the estimate at around 10,000 jobs.
Disneyland officials did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment. USA TODAY has also reached out to the California Association of Parks and Attractions, a trade group representing park operators, and the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions.
The newspaper reported that furloughed workers would be able to keep their health and insurance benefits in addition to being eligible for state unemployment benefits. They can also elect to use their accrued paid time off when the furlough period starts. (It is not clear when they take effect.)
The furloughs come seven months after Disney laid off 28,000 workers at both Disneyland and its Orlando, Florida, sibling. They also come just weeks after an Oct. 20 decision by California state officials giving different reopening criteria for parks under and over 15,000 people.
Large parks such as Disneyland and Universal Studios must wait until the COVID-19 transmission rate drops into the minimum-risk category of its four-tiered Blueprint for a Safer Economy. To get there, the counties surrounding each theme park must have less than one case a day per 100,000 residents and a testing positivity rate of less than 2%.
Orange County, home to Disneyland, has been stuck in the substantial risk tier, or second most severe category, for weeks. To demonstrate how far it has to go, it currently has between four and seven new cases per day per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate in the 5-8% range.
Disneyland to reopen? No time soon under new California theme park guidelines
“We expected to be able to open our parks in Anaheim, given our proven ability to operate with responsible health and safety protocols as we have in all of our other theme parks around the world, but unfortunately this has not been the case,” Potrock told employees in his letter.
Potrock has been a vocal critic of the state’s reopening criteria, accusing officials of “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.”
After the criteria were announced, Potrock said, “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.”
While Disneyland must remain shuttered, it announced last week that Buena Vista Street, part of its retail and dining complex, will reopen on Nov. 19.
So why can Disneyland reopen its stores but not the theme park? The same guidelines that Potrock criticized allow for retail stores located in counties in the “substantial risk” tier, such as Orange County (where the park is located), to operate at 50% capacity with some modifications, such as having a plan for responding to potential COVID-19 exposure and notify local health authorities.
Good news for Mouse House fans: Disneyland’s retail and restaurant area, Buena Vista Street, to reopen Nov. 19
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