Some smaller theme parks might be able to reopen soon under new guidelines issued today by the state of California. However, larger theme parks — including Disneyland and Universal Studios — will have to wait until their counties get to the state's least restrictive Covid-19 tier.
California Health and Human Service Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly revealed the guidelines today. Theme parks with a capacity of 15,000 people or fewer may begin to reopen in the state's third tier, the Orange tier, but attendance is limited to 500 people or 25 percent of the park's capacity, whichever is less.
Guests must make advance reservations to visit and the parks are limited to outdoor operations only. Mask use will be required for all people in the park, except when actively eating or drinking. And only people from the park's home county may attend.
In the Yellow tier — the least restrictive for counties with minimal Covid-19 exposure — all parks may operate at 25 percent of capacity, with no hard number limit. Reservations and masks will continue to be required, but there will not be a geographical restriction on visitors.
Currently, no major theme parks in California are located in counties that have made it to the Yellow tier. The state announced today that San Francisco County has entered the Yellow tier. Its closest parks are Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is in Solano County, which is assigned to the Red tier, and California's Great America is in Santa Clara County, which is in the Orange tier. But Dr. Ghaly pointed to San Francisco's example when challenged by reporters to answer whether big parks such as Disneyland could ever reopen.
"We don't have the crystal ball. I don't know in Orange County or San Diego County will indeed enter yellow but as I said earlier, I think there's lots of work we can do together — both state and local leaders, business leaders, community leaders, and individuals — to do what we can to make sure that we reduce transmission throughout our counties and there is a path forward there. We do not know when, but we do know how, and I think we'll continue to put in the hard work to get us there — one county at a time but across the entire state is our goal," he said.
Dr. Ghaly called theme parks a higher risk than outdoor sports stadiums due to the fact that large parks typically attract people from a wider geographic area than stadium events and that people move around more in theme parks, making contact tracing much harder than for an event where people have assigned seats. After releasing the theme park guidance, Dr. Ghaly detailed opening guidance for stadium events, which can begin welcoming spectators at 20 percent capacity in the Orange tier and 25 percent in Yellow. However, admission is limited to people who live within 120 miles of the stadium. Advance sales with assigned seats will be required.
Update: Here is the statement from Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock: "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. 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. Together with our labor unions we want to get people back to work, but these State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community."
And here is a statement from Orange County Health Director Dr. Clayton Chau that Disneyland released: “I think for a large county like us, especially a county with institution of higher education where folks [are] coming in from outside the county and outside the state, I think it’s going to be very hard to achieve the yellow tier. It depends on when the vaccine will come as well as how many doses [are] available for our populations as well as how many of our residents will readily accept the vaccine – those are the three factors that will determine how soon we can get to the yellow tier. Personally, I think that we can look forward to a yellow tier by next summer, hopefully. Hopefully."
And from Universal, we get this:
It's official. We’ll only be responding to 25% of our tweets until further notice. ????— Universal Studios Hollywood (@UniStudios) October 20, 2020
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