On the heels of layoff announcements from one of the county’s largest employers, Orange County health officials are asking the state to allow Disneyland and other theme parks to reopen.
“Yesterday was a sad day for Orange County, as Disney had to lay off 28,000 of its employees,” County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said at a press conference Thursday. “This is because the state continues to disallow the opening of theme parks.”
Steel said she worries that these employees, many of whom are Orange County residents, might not be able to make ends meet as the state drags its feet in the reopening of theme parks and other businesses.
“We need these parks to open, not just for our children or tourists, but for our businesses and the communities that rely on them,” Steel said.
She reminded the public that Orange County’s cases per 100,000 have stayed low compared to neighboring counties and other urban counties in the state. The county has also seen a significant dip in hospitalization rates.
While other Disney parks around the world have reopened, Steel said the original Disneyland in Anaheim remains closed.
“I am disappointed at the lack of progress that California has made in this and other areas,” Steel said. “While other governments have made state reopening plans for their theme parks, California continues to delay.”
Disney officials earlier in the week urged California to allow visitors to safely return to Disneyland and California Adventure.
Orange County, meanwhile, remains in the second-most restrictive tier of reopening — the red tier, when risk is deemed substantial — after it saw a slight uptick in cases over the past two weeks. Public health officials had been hopeful the county was on track to move the less restrictive orange tier this week.
The county’s rate of new COVID-19 cases rose to 4.4 cases per day per 100,000 residents this week from 3.6 last week, according to the state Department of Public Health. The orange tier’s case rate target is 1 to 4 daily cases per 100,000 residents.
A drop to the orange tier, for moderate coronavirus risk, would have allowed bars and breweries that don’t serve food to resume outdoor services. It would have also permitted bowling alleys, wineries, card rooms and indoor climbing walls to open at one-quarter capacity.
As of Thursday, Orange County’s coronavirus caseload rose by 158 cases over the previous day to a total of 53,909 cases. Seven new deaths were also reported, bringing the county’s total COVID-19 death toll to 1,275.
Dr. Margaret Bredehoft, deputy agency director of public health services, said the recent uptick in cases underscores the importance of remaining vigilant about taking preventative measures to slow the spread of the virus.
“The slow and stringent guidelines of the tiered framework will help us be open as safely as possible for our children and our community at large,” Bredehoft said. “However, we need to have a collective resolve to do this together.”
Bredehoft also reminded the public about the upcoming flu season and urged residents to get their flu shots soon.
Meanwhile, Orange County schools have seen minimal COVID-19 activity, said Dr. Matthew Zahn, medical director of the Communicable Disease Control Division.
“I’ve been really pleased and we’ve been really comfortable working with the schools,” Zahn said. “We know that there is certainly the potential for cases, and we’re going to have cases in our schools, but as long as we respond well and appropriately to keep everybody safe, then we’ll do well.”