Disney to lay off 28,000 at its parks in California, Florida

Guests wear masks as required to attend the official reopening day of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Saturday, July 11, 2020. Disney reopened two Florida parks, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, Saturday, with limited capacity and safety protocols in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Guests wear masks as required to attend the official reopening day of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Saturday, July 11, 2020. Disney reopened two Florida parks, the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, Saturday, with limited capacity and safety protocols in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP) (Orlando Sentinel)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Squeezed by limits on attendance at its theme parks and other restrictions due to the pandemic, The Walt Disney Co. said Tuesday it planned to lay off 28,000 workers in its parks division in California and Florida.

Two-thirds of the planned layoffs involve part-time workers but they ranged from salaried employees to hourly workers, Disney officials said.

Disney’s parks closed last spring as the pandemic started spreading in the U.S. The Florida parks reopened this summer, but the California parks have yet to reopen as the company awaits guidance from the state of California.

In a letter to employees, Josh D'Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experience and Product, said California's “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen" exacerbated the situation for the company.

D’Amaro said his management team had worked hard to try to avoid layoffs. They had cut expenses, suspended projects and modified operations but it wasn’t enough given limits on the number of people allowed into the park because of social distancing restrictions and other pandemic-related measures, he said.

“As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic,” he said.

California’s health secretary on Tuesday said the state was close to working out a way to have the theme parks reopen in a responsible way.

“We know that a number of Californians are eager and wondering when that is coming, and we’re working with those industries to put out something that’s thoughtful, allows us to maintain the rest of our framework in a strong way, and really following those principles of slow and stringent to ensure those large activities are done responsibly,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services.