Disneyland is opening but for a very specific reason.
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Disneyland has been closed to guests for more than 200 days. The southern California park is now scheduled to open as a mass vaccination site. Orange County officials have announced plans to open five such sites in the area, which they are calling Point-of-Dispensing (POD) locations. Thousands of people are expected to be vaccinated at the super POD sites daily. The county hopes to have reached its COVID-19 vaccination goals by July 4th. Disney will be the first of the five Super POD sites to open later this week.
Disneyland is the largest employer in Orange County. Prior to the pandemic, the park had only closed unexpectedly three times in its long history. Those days were far apart and included the day of mourning for President John F. Kennedy, an earthquake in 1994, and September 11th, 2001. Now, despite the pressure they’ve tried to put on the government of California, they are still unclear on when they’ll reopen to guests.
The closure of Disneyland is in stark contrast to the other Disney parks, particularly Disneyworld in Florida. While California has remained strict in their stay-at-home orders, Florida has allowed theme parks to open for a while now. California has stayed strong in their declaration that they won’t reopen theme parks until their numbers reach one case of COVID-19 for 100,000 residents in the county. This is a number Disney has claimed is unrealistic, but the government is standing by. It remains to be seen what effects vaccination efforts will have on this standard as a guideline.
As Disney hasn’t had much luck convincing California to change its mind, they have announced their plans to lay off 32,000 employees. This number is an escalation of the 28,000 employees they announced they would be laying off in September. The 32,000 employees will mainly be those from their theme parks, particularly Disneyland. They said the layoffs were due to the pandemic situation dragging on their earnings. These layoffs will occur in the first half of the fiscal year for 2021, which began in October 2020. Disney added that they planned to reduce their investments in movies and television. They also intend to halt capital spending and furlough more of their employees. They have already furloughed 37,000 employees.
Disneyland will be the first Point-of-Dispensing site in Orange County, but it isn’t the first in the country. In San Diego, Petco Park is open as a Super vaccination site. They have a goal set of 5,000 people vaccinated per day. In Chicago, Dodger Stadium has similar goals. Health care officials have said previous plans weren’t making it possible to vaccinate enough people as quickly as they wanted. The Super POD sites are making greater numbers possible, faster.
While the pandemic situation in California remains fluid, vaccinations are a step in the right direction to eventually reopen Disneyland to park guests. If Orange County reaches its goal of completing vaccinations by July 4th, it could mean the park may be able to establish opening plans in summer 2021.