Disneyland’s reopening may have to wait even longer as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to spike in Orange County.
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The multinational entertainment giant was trying to reopen Disneyland July 17, but thousands of theme park and resort workers rallied together to raise their health concerns to Gov. Gavin Newsom leading up to Disney’s Wednesday announcement.
Those concerns, and the rising virus cases in Orange County and the state, led Newsom’s decision on Wednesday to pause theme park reopening plans.
“That Disney has not now decided to move forward next month opening up their theme park, I want to just compliment Disney and their team for making that determination. It was referenced in their press release that the state of California has paused on providing guidelines in that space. That is an example of the data informing decision making. And that is exactly what we’ll be doing moving forward,” Newsom said at a Thursday news conference.
He said reopening plans, like theme parks, will be “based upon the data and based upon local conditions.”
Thursday saw one of the highest daily totals for people being hospitalized with the virus in Orange County, with 394, including 147 people in intensive care units, according to County numbers.
The virus has now killed 306 people, including seven deaths reported Thursday, out of 11,511 confirmed cases.
Just over 5,300 people have recovered and nearly 232,000 tests have been conducted throughout OC, which is home to roughly 3.2 million people.
Newsom said trends are going up statewide, especially hospitalizations, which increased 32 percent over the past 14 days.
It wasn’t just employees pushing back against Disneyland’s reopening.
There’s also been local pushback community against plans to reopen July 17, with over 50,000 people — and counting — signing an online petition urging Disney to delay the reopening of its two Anaheim theme parks.
Some residents and employees have emailed Anaheim City Councilmembers, urging them to delay the Disneyland reopening because of the virus.
Dr. Daniel Chow, an associate professor at University of California, Irvine, said many of the new cases he’s seeing come through UCI hospital are from low-income neighborhoods.
“Increasingly, patients are coming from areas of low income,” Chow said. “These are people taking care of us in grocery stores, in the restaurants — the front facing employees. So in my opinion it’s creating the perfect storm for maxing the amount of harm.”
Chow, who’s also co-director for UCI’s Center for Artificial Intelligence in Diagnostic Medicine, mapped out a graph showing how it’s quickly spread through neighborhoods in West Anaheim and Santa Ana, along with Garden Grove and other areas surrounding Disneyland.
While he didn’t have access to all County data, he used UCI’s hospital data, which accounts for about 10 percent of the total virus data. Chow said it’s representative of the overall data.
Anaheim makes up about 11 percent of OC’s total population, yet has 19 percent of the virus cases as of Thursday, according to County data.
Much of those cases are clustered in working-class West Anaheim, around the Disneyland-area resort district, according to data presented by Anaheim City Councilman Jose Moreno at Tuesday’s council meeting.
City officials said they were told by County officials to not share the zip-code specific data because it was still being reviewed by county lawyers.
County CEO Frank Kim said the Health Care Agency has been moving to release that data.
“That’s what’s going to be up in our new website that’s going to be up tomorrow. We’re going to show all the zip code data. It’s not secret info, the reason we asked them not to share it publicly is we wanted to make sure we were okay in sharing that level of data with our compliance officer and county counsel,” Kim said.
“Now the dataset is going to be available to all communities.”
Chow’s data also showed cases coming out of areas like West Anaheim and the demographics of virus patients UCI Hospital has been treating are increasingly poor people as the virus continues to spread.
Interim County health officer Dr. Clayton Chau previously said he’s forming a task force to examine Anaheim and Santa Ana to address the disproportionate virus impacts.
The two cities make up about 20 percent of the population, but have about 40 percent of the confirmed cases.
“We engaged some trusted community partners like Latino Health Access,” Kim said. “Now we’re going to do some deep dives and engage the community directly through trusted community partners.”
He said heavy community outreach is ongoing in Spanish and Vietnamese. Kim also said by engaging community organizations, it will help alleviate some government distrust communities harbor and help them to participate in contact tracing.
Chow said the virus situation is getting worse, and pushed back against criticism that more cases are only due to more testing.
“That’s half true — yes we’re having more cases because there’s more testing. But, we also have more hospital and emergency room visits,” Chow said. “People really need to take this seriously.”
Kim said he expects to see virus increases because more businesses are opening up.
“As we reopen our economy and we interact with each other more and more, we’re going to see a rise of infections. So it’s more important than ever that individuals follow social distancing, frequent handwashing, as well as face coverings — it’s a requirement.”
Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data: