Anaheim has been economically devastated with Disneyland shut because of the Covid-19 restrictions, the city’s Mayor Harry Sidhu told indica News after California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday allowed opening of certain businesses.
Sidhu pointed out that Anaheim draws people for the Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and the Convention Center. The pandemic has not only hit the businesses but also the workers.
Anaheim has 360,000 residents.
“It’s devastating, Disney has been closed for almost 10 months now and almost 14,000 people who work there are sitting home,” Sidhu told indica News.
“They are all hoping with this vaccine coming up they will open up by summertime.”
Newsom’s announcement on Monday was made after a decline in the 14-day Covid 19 positivity rate, which dropped from 14.6 percent to 9.6 percent. California still has the 26th highest Covid 19 positivity rate in the country.
Businesses welcomed the move to open but restaurants were not sure how to feed customers in the cold and rain, whereas many other businesses were still waiting for the governor to allow them to open.
“I cannot say when [Disneyland will open],” Mayor Sidhu told indica News.
“The governor has added amusement park in tier 4 and we are asking to open at least in tier 3 because tier 4 is very restrictive. Again, a lot of changes can happen now and between summertime,” said Sidhu.
Anaheim is in purple zone, tier 1. According to California’s ratings system it means that the virus is widespread. Red (tier 2) means substantial spread, orange (tier 3) indicates moderate spread and yellow or tier 4 indicates minimal spread of the virus.
Mayor Sidhu said that the city has lost almost 90 percent of revenue it used to get from bed tax. Hotel, restaurants, and the largest convention center on the West Coast are running empty and bookings made five years in advance have been canceled.
“So, just remember convention gets canceled besides Disney. We are losing a lot of revenue. Third, the baseball team used to attract over 40,000 people. Another center of attraction was Honda Center, which used to bring 20,000 people,” Sidhu said.
“Again, we the city have been hit hard in terms of generating revenue which is $130 million dollars short in the last 10 months,” Sidhu said.
The city has used all of its reserves and is working on external and internal borrowing, he said.
“We are hoping to get some kind of stimulus package from the federal government and hoping it happen soon because, we are in dire need of help from the state and the federal government,” he said.
Asked about the Paycheck Protection Program, money and economic support from the state and the federal government, Sidhu said the grant money helps but “here businesses are down and they have mortgage to pay, there is no revenue generation. So whatever came in was a little bit of help.”
What more could Governor Newsom have done to stabilize the economy?
“Look, this is a learning process and no one knew this pandemic is going to hurt everybody so hard.” Mayor Sidhu said.
“So, I will not blame the governor but he could have kept the businesses open and that would have helped in some revenue coming in. But at the same time he did not know how long the pandemic will last either.”
“But at the same time he could have taken a different route to give businesses more leverage — like outdoor dining could have stayed open,” he said.
Monday’s announcement allows restaurants to offer outside dining but the eateries were not too impressed.
Hitesh Gautam of Amber restaurant in San Francisco said it’s hard given the weather, and added that he was still deciding how to place a chimney inside the tent.
Ranjan Dey, owner of the long-running New Delhi restaurant in San Francisco, said he has no space to serve outside.
The governor has allowed indoor operation for some businesses.
“If you look at Costco, Walmart, Target, those places are crowded with people,” Harry pointed out.
“That is his [Newsom’s] style that has costs lots of people jobs , it costs lot of people the livelihood and people are suffering. Stay at home… and look at the traffic!”
Asked why Disney CEO Bob Iger in California resigned from Newsom’s Covid-19 economic task force, Sidhu said Iger gave points on how Disney can open up a portion the governor “did not get it.”
“If you see World Disney in Orlando it’s open. Covid is there as well.”
“We gave our governor an example — look if Florida can operate and if Europe and China can operate, let us open up in California. He did not fully believe that it was the right thing to do. His team went to Florida and they felt they have to put more strict rules in California.”
“It would not just take one or two but five to 10 years to recover” economically, Sidhu said.
He said that the city has been spending millions on feeding residents at food banks.
“So it’s not just that people are frustrated. People are frustrated living in their houses. People cannot pay rent. People cannot get jobs. No work. People cannot go buy good quality food,” Sidhu said.
He said the city was “giving 5,000 vaccines per day to 65 and above and already 45,000 vaccines have been given so far.”
The biggest hurdle is the shortage of nurses, he said.
“We don’t have people who are trained to give the shots. So the firefighters are giving shots because they are trained people who can inoculate at this time.”
Sidhu sounding hopeful that soon governor allows businesses to run said Disney has done everything possible and it is up to the governor to relax some of these orders and make it a little easier.
“Right now Disney is working with the governor’s office and the city of Anaheim. All we can ask please allow Disney to open up. We are in direct contact and hope it all works out,” Sidhu said.
Asked if he was not scared about a Covid-19 surge in such a scenario. He said anybody who is going to come to Disneyland should either be inoculated or carry a Covid-19 test report.
“You will see it is coming in pretty soon — airlines will require you to show you are vaccinated or you have been tested and Covid free; so will Disneyland,” said Mayor Sidhu.