California in 'Dynamic' Conversation on Reopening Theme Parks

August 28, 2020, 3:13 PM · California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced a new framework for determining when and how businesses can open in the state. And he confirmed that he is having a "dynamic" conversation with theme park companies about their return.

When asked when Disneyland might be allowed to reopen, Newsom responded:

"Specific to... amusement park operators, we are working with them," the governor said. "It is a very dynamic conversation, and so we didn't include it in the update today. That is a separate conversation. It's an easier to one to have, frankly, with some of the larger ones. We're trying to accommodate for some of the other amusement activities in the state, and so you'll be getting that as soon as we work through that. One of my afternoon meetings is in this space, and we're actively looking to see where we land on that."

Previously in his daily briefing, Newsom announced a sweeping change the to state's approach toward reopening businesses. The old "watch list" system is gone, now replaced with a color-coded, four-tier system for rating counties in the state. Counties' tier position will be determined by case and testing positivity rates. A county must meet the criteria to move to a more permissive tier for two weeks before it will be allowed to move. Once a county does move, it will be frozen at that tier for three weeks before it can move again to the next-more-permissive tier.

The tiers are listed on the state's website at (*See update, below) Currently, theme parks are allowed to operate only in counties rated in the most permissive, yellow-coded "minimal" spread tier. However, only 0.1 percent of the state's residents live in those counties, which are on the state eastern and northern borders. (*Update: The website has changed, and now theme parks are listed as closed in all California counties, regardless of tier status.)

Among counties with major theme parks, San Diego County is the only one not listed in the most restrictive, purple tier. San Diego, which is home to SeaWorld and Legoland, is in the red tier, which will allow limited indoor restaurant, zoo, museum and aquarium operations starting Monday.

That could allowed expanded operations at SeaWorld San Diego, which is reopening with an outdoor animal exhibits and food stands this weekend, under the old state guidance that permitted zoos and outdoor dining in the county.

Update 2: Legoland California and local San Diego officials held a press conference in Carlsbad before Governor Newsom spoke, calling for more businesses in the county to be allowed to reopen.

"Legoland is ready and eager to open once the state and county guidelines are given, Legoland California Resort President Kurt Stocks said. "All health and safety guidelines that have been approved for other San Diego attractions can easily be observed at our park and our measures go above and beyond to keep our guests and employees safe."

Replies (14)

August 28, 2020 at 4:29 PM

>> Specific to... amusement park operators,

Walt is turning in his grave at that line....

>> Once a county does move, it will be frozen at that tier for three weeks before it can move again to the next-more-permissive tier.

How quickly can they move back up?

On the face of it this seems like a pretty reasonable system. One of the problems we’ve had in the UK is how variable everything is. One minute it’s “plan your holiday (vacation) as normal” next minute is “Hey, we know you’re about to step on the plane... but by the time you get back, there might be a quarantine again, so don’t get on if you can’t stay home for another 2 weeks...”

August 28, 2020 at 7:00 PM

There's so much wrong with their metric, it's not even funny. Whether counties can reopen is based on the testing percent positive rate. This number is in no way an indication of how healthy a county is. You could have a county test 5,000 people in a day and 2,000 of them are positive, but another county tests 10 people that day and 8 of them are positive. The county with 8 positive will have a higher testing percent positive rate than the county that tested more people. This means that as cases subside and we're testing fewer people, it's designed that we will never reopen until cases are 100% eliminated.

August 28, 2020 at 7:20 PM

Counties can be moved back up at the state's discretion, if hospitalization and ICU rates change for the worse. Or they can be moved at any time if they no longer meet the criteria for their current tier, though it wasn't clear from the briefing how many days they'd need to miss to be moved.

I also see the point about positivity rates potentially being gamed, though to do that a whole lot more people would need to be tested to bring the positivity rate down - which, to be honest, wouldn't be a bad thing for getting this pandemic under control. Especially if more testing leads to better contact tracing.

Anyway, I expect this classification system to change again at some point before we're out of this.

August 29, 2020 at 1:04 AM

I'm growing increasingly impatient with Newsom's trend to slow down reopening even as things are getting better. With this latest change, it seems to be tailored specifically to drag out the reopening process for several months by focusing on the most challenging metrics to overcome rather than the ones that matter most. California is crumbling, but not due to the virus, and the fact that states doing worse than us at the beginning of summer are now doing better than us with less restrictive openings should immediately raise a red flag to this strategy.

If you want a true plan based on science and data, it's quite simple:

-All outdoor businesses can resume full operation as long as patrons remained masked and/or appropriately distanced
-Indoor businesses can operate at a capacity sufficient to support distancing (1 person per 200 sq. ft. would be more than adequate), provided patrons are masked. If masks are not in use (such as a restaurant), physical barriers must be erected between parties in order for operation to resume.
-If a business is not in compliance, or COVID spread can be directly traced to it, then it must cease operation. Until then, all businesses may operate under these guidelines unless there is a threat that hospitals may be overrun, at which point temporary closures of the highest risk businesses will take place.

As for theme parks, I think using the same guidelines as zoos is appropriate (outdoor attractions only in purple phase, indoor attractions with reduced capacity beginning in red phase). Given that shopping centers are open (which I felt far less safe at than any of the parks I visited on my road trip last month) and family entertainment centers are open with outdoor attractions, I would absolutely stand behind any theme park in California that attempts to sue should additional restrictions be levied against them.

August 29, 2020 at 2:07 AM

I think everyone on this post believes in this virus, believes in proper mask use (i.e. over nose and mouth), and Disney World and Universal Orlando have shown now for well over a month+ that theme parks are pretty safe to go to with the measures they have implemented. Honestly, I feel their measures along with Knott's ticketed meal events, and downtown Disneyland & Universal Hollywood are safer than going to the local Walmart where no temperatures are checked, 20% or more wear masks incorrectly or a mask with filters/ bandanas/ etc., and with a lot less social distancing and crowd controls in place. Disneyland, Knotts, Universal can open safely I feel today and just have everyone eat socially distanced outside. I hate to think how this virus has been so politicized that common sense, true health factors/comcerns, and our economy are it seems rarely discussed. And let's face it, getting a haircut indoors at times inches away from others with masks is considered safe come Monday (it is with proper mask use I feel), but theme parks that have proven that they take safety seriously and have tons of people recording everything with cell phones at the mentioned park repeatedly showing safety measures galore happening is not safe in California?

BTW, 100% support what AJ mentions. And though I hate to get political here, Newsom is truly hurting our state I feel now, and has gone past "the science" and has politicized the whole opening/ closing/ re-opening/ re-closing, "dimmer", and so on. For work I had to listen to his media conference today, and he just went on and on, and honestly he could have explained everything in terms of the changes in 10 minutes. BTW, my comments are not to tell anyone how to vote in elections, but we need leadership that takes the virus seriously, but also looks at the economy, freedoms, everyone's mental well-being, etc.

BTW, I am still trying to figure out how indoor bars were re-opened months back, yet the powers who be decided to not re-open much less health risk places.

August 29, 2020 at 12:53 PM

While reading the list of what's allowed to open in a purple tiered county I noticed it has this listed for Family Entertainment Centers: "Family entertainment centers
Can open outdoors only with modifications
– Kart racing
– Mini-golf
– Batting cages"

Odd that they would draw a distinction between that and properly socially distanced amusement park rides. This seems less scientific and more arbitrary.
(Unrelated, but very amusing is this entry: Body waxing studios
Can open outdoors only with modifications)

August 30, 2020 at 12:06 AM

I think Newsom is just wary given they were trying reopening then eruption in cases so erring on the side of caution better. The idea he's perfectly fine letting, you know the entire movie and TV industry be shut down along with scores of tourism seems laughable, he knows the damage of a wider outbreak and the fact a huge spike happened before means reopening has to be handled better.

Iowa is a small state and it's first in the nation for cases per 100,000 residents, Newsom obviously worries a state so much bigger can be more dangerous so a careful reopening is better.

August 30, 2020 at 2:33 AM

While I believe the virus is real and serious like everyone else here i'm also glad everything has re-opened here in Florida and life is going on with the masks and social distancing measures in place. I feel terrible for people in states like California and Illinois, without federal unemployment subsidies now it is inhumane to keep businesses closed IMO.

August 30, 2020 at 12:30 PM

Scores of places summarizing that a short-term shutdown would have been painful but still better to keep it under control and by now, we could have a lot more open like movie theaters, parks etc. Instead, Iowa never does and their numbers are insanely high and the Sturgis bike rally causing further spread. I know we all want "back to normal" but that's not happening for a long time and I'd argue it's more "inhumane" to needlessly spread this just because people don't want to wear a mask for a store trip.

August 30, 2020 at 12:56 PM

Shutting things down does not save as many lives as one may think. All it does is delay the inevitable. Eventually this virus will spread until herd immunity is reached. By shutting down, we are unnecessarily tanking the economy. This will lead to many people becoming homeless, which could create a health problem just as bad as the virus itself.

August 30, 2020 at 1:31 PM

I'm not making kind of predictions or analysis all i'm saying is i'd rather go to work and take my chances than stay at home for $250.

August 31, 2020 at 12:57 PM

Only in America would people in the middle of an unchecked pandemic complain about amusement parks not reopening quick enough. In a country where approximately 1000 people a day are dying avoidable deaths, where the prognosis for the fall months is far, far worse, and where there is no plan to do anything differently, people are criticizing their leaders for being TOO cautious.

I've been watching the Tour de France this week, and you should check it out: mile after mile of socially distanced spectators, all of them wearing masks. They's why they can have the Tour--the people did what it took to get the spread under control. Here, the virus is at its late summer low point, and ALL of the science expects the numbers to skyrocket when temperatures drop. Thank goodness Newsom is moving slow, he knows what's coming.

AJ, to your point, you're right, we, like the French, could easily reopen a great many things "as long as patrons remained masked." But half of Americans insist on their right to not wear a mask, our President actively encourages them to not socially distance or wear masks (see the White House lawn last week), and thus that's never going to happen. Which is why we are the laughing stock of the developed world and aren't getting out of this mess anytime soon.

August 31, 2020 at 2:26 PM

America 5 million cases 3 weeks ago now 6 million cases wow.
This virus is spreading rapidly.

September 1, 2020 at 11:41 AM

I'm Canadian, and have loved visiting the U.S. for many years. I almost feel like the U.S. is my second home, and I think the country has the most to offer for visitors. But I'm dismayed by what is going on, this ridiculous, politicized backlash against the mask. I have to wonder when we can reopen the border -- Trump wants to, but we can't! We just can't do it, until the U.S. gets it's act together!

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