FOX BUSINESS - As Disneyland remains closed due to coronavirus concerns, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a press briefing Monday he is sending a team The Walt Disney Company's Florida theme park, Walt Disney World to gather feedback on how those theme parks are successfully operating during the pandemic.
The measure is being taken, said Newsom, "to get a better sense of what’s going on. . . While we absolutely take people’s word for information that they provide us, we want to see things for ourselves.”
Newsom added that his state is trying to "get a better handle on what we're being told, what we're reading about and our own concerns and our own environment as it relates to what makes our theme parks distinctive and unique."
It is unclear who will be in Newsom's traveling team or when they are going. It is also unclear if they will tour Disneyland, which has put numerous health and safety measures in place. Newsom noted that talks are currently ongoing with Disney and Universal regarding when its California theme parks will reopen. A spokesperson for the governor's office did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment for additional information on the visit.
Disneyland was scheduled to reopen on July 17, but the plan was sidelined after a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the state. Meanwhile, Walt Disney World reopened its Florida theme parks in mid-July with masks, social distancing, mobile ordering, contactless payment and enhanced cleaning procedures in place and Hong Kong Disneyland reopened to the public for the second time on September 25.
The announcement comes amid tensions between Newsom and the so-called "Happiest Place on Earth," after the governor said last week that the state was "in no hurry in putting out guidelines” to allow theme parks to reopen, citing the decision being based on a "health-first framework."
Dr. Pamela Hymel, Chief Medical Officer for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in a statement on Twitter that the company absolutely rejects "the suggestion that reopening the Disneyland Resort is incompatible with a 'health-first' approach'." She also noted that Disney's health and safety protocols were developed in consultation with epidemiologists and data scientists, and after considering guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and experts in local government and health agencies.
“All of our other theme parks both in the U.S. and around the world have been allowed to open on the strength of our proven ability to operate with responsible health and safety protocols,” Hymel added.
The standstill has also prompted Disney executive chairman Bob Iger to depart the state's coronavirus task force.
Newsom said that while he is "very mindful" of the economy and wants to see more businesses reopen, he warned that it needs to be done safely as the country prepares for the upcoming winter season, where individuals have a higher likelihood of gathering together.
"I am very sober about the responsibility and the expectation that is placed upon this administration and administrations across this state to keep people safe and at the same time balance economic imperative of reopening with modifications but mindful of trend lines you're seeing across the country, for the matter around the world, from Germany to U.K. to other parts of the globe that have had setbacks as they enter into the winter months and I want to make sure we get this right," Newsom said.
Disney announced it would lay off 28,000 employees across its Parks, Experiences and Products segment due to low park attendance at its reopened theme parks and limited capacity put in place to curb the spread of the virus.
According to both Disney and the Service Trades Council Union, which represents approximately 43,000 of the company's cast members, layoffs will impact 8,800 part-time union employees. Meanwhile, no full-time cast members are currently set to face layoffs.