Hotel industry leaders plead for help as many OC businesses remain closed under red tier

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- Orange County has been reporting relatively low COVID-19 numbers, with 239 new cases and five additional deaths Saturday, but the county missed the chance last week to move into a less restrictive tier in the state's reopening framework.

Now, the county must remain in the red tier for at least two more weeks as continued closures are taking a heavy toll on the local economy that relies heavily on travel and tourism.

The rooftop bar at the new JW Marriott in Anaheim looks out onto a number of attractions that are still closed or barely open such as Disneyland, Anaheim GardenWalk, and other destinations in the Resort District that keep local hotels running.

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Closed stores throughout Anaheim have been clear indicators of the devastating impact on the local economy during the ongoing closure of the Disneyland Resort because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's one of many sights across the country that has the American Hotel & Lodging Association calling on Congress for another round of PPP loans to get them through the spring.

"Even in the best of times, late fall and winter is always difficult in our industry. But in the long term, we've got to have a reopened economy, we've got to have people traveling again," said Chip Rogers, President and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
"Though our industry was allowed to open middle of June here in California, many of the things that would bring guests to stay at our hotels remain closed to this day," said Bijal Patel, Board Chair for the California Hotel and Lodging Association.

In California alone, COVID's effects on the hotel industry are devastating.

"One-hundred and eight thousand job loss statewide as of September. That's 108,000 individuals that have lost their jobs. Almost 6,000 hotels closed or foreclosed on," said Lynn Mohrfeld, President and CEO of the California Hotel and Lodging Association.

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JW Marriott is trying to make the best of the situation, offering dinner and drinks with a view. Still, frustration is mounting for businesses, families and some local lawmakers, like Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, especially after the county didn't advance into the less restrictive tier as expected.

"The idea was flatten the curve. The idea was make sure our hospitals are not overflowing, make sure that our ICU beds are available, ventilator capacities there, keep the desks manageable. That was what flattening the curve was all about. We did that. Now with the new tier system, and the colored system, none of that is even considered," Wagner said.

Supervisor Wagner is part of the OpenCALNow policy movement, which calls on Gov. Gavin Newsom to throw out the color coded system and let local communities deal with the situation as they see fit.

"There is no green! There is no 'everything's completely open.' And so we just don't even know what the governor's end game is," he said.

Since Orange County did not advance into the orange tier last week, it must now remain in the red until orange metrics can be met for two consecutive weeks. That puts the county on hold until at least Oct. 13.

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Does the new color coded, 4-tier system for monitoring COVID-19 in California leave you scratching your head? ABC7 breaks down what each tier means.

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