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Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California health officials on Tuesday told theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood that they can reopen once daily coronavirus cases in their respective counties drop below one per 100,000 people.

Why it matters: Disney and Universal, both of which hoped to reopen when their counties reached "moderate" spread, have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Deadline reported that Universal Studios Hollywood laid off over 2,200 employees since July and Disney laid off 28,000 employees in September.

What they're saying: "There is a path forward. We don’t know when, but we know how" the parks will reopen, said California health secretary Mark Ghaly.

  • "We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world," president of Disneyland Resort, Ken Potrock, responded in a statement on Tuesday.
    • "Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities."
  • "Pushing us into Tier Four behind other businesses that have already reopened makes no sense," president and COO of Universal Studios Hollywood, Karen Irwin, said in a statement, according to CNBC. "...Our employees are ready to go back to work and the fact that they won’t be able to do so until well into next year is shameful."

Orange County, where both Disneyland parks are located, has 4.6 cases per 100,000 people, while Los Angeles County, where Universal Studios Hollywood is, has 10.1 cases per 100,000 people, CNBC reports.

Go deeper

Jan 28, 2021 - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

Jan 27, 2021 - Health

OIG: HHS misused millions of dollars intended for public health threats

Vaccine vials. Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel alerted the White House and Congress on Wednesday of an investigation that found the Department of Health and Human Services misused millions of dollars that were budgeted for vaccine research and public health emergencies for Ebola, Zika and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: The more than 200-page investigation corroborated claims from a whistleblower, showing the agency's violation of the Purpose Statute spanned both the Obama and Trump administrations and paid for unrelated projects like salaries, news subscriptions and the removal of office furniture.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).