Even with approval, Disney; Universal to remain closed

California has cleared theme parks to reopen after more than seven months of coronavirus closures provided they follow newly issued COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. However, Disneyland, Universal and other large parks may not be able to return until next summer.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly announced during a news conference on Tuesday, October 20 that reopening guidelines for amusement parks have been added to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-tier Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, SeaWorld San Diego, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Legoland California and other California theme parks can reopen under newly issued protocols that require mandatory masks, social distancing, increased sanitization, reduced attraction capacity and employee training.

California officials issued separate reopening guidelines for smaller and larger theme parks in the state. Small theme parks can reopen in the “moderate” tier while large theme parks must wait to return in the “minimal” tier.

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Smaller theme parks can reopen open at 25% capacity or 500 in-county visitors, whichever is fewer, with admission by reservation only in the “moderate” tier. Larger theme parks can reopen at 25% capacity with reservations in the “minimal” tier.

The new guidelines mean Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other large theme parks won’t be able to reopen for months until their respective counties reach the least-restrictive “minimal” risk level. California’s Great America located in Santa Clara County which is in the “moderate” tier could theoretically open in one to three weeks if the county successfully moves to the “minimal” tier.

Orange County Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau said Tuesday during the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting that it will be difficult for Orange County to reach the yellow “minimal” tier until there’s a vaccine.

“I think for a large county like us, especially a county with institutions of higher education where folks come in from outside the county and outside the state, it’s going to be very hard to achieve the yellow tier,” Chau said during the meeting. “Personally, I think that we can look forward to a yellow tier by next summer, hopefully.”

Six Flags Magic Mountain president Don McCoy said he was deeply disappointed with the state’s decision to keep large theme parks in the yellow “minimal” tier, “Six Flags Magic Mountain is well positioned to re-open, however this latest news could effectively keep us closed indefinitely,” McCoy replied in a statement.

Legoland California president Kurt Stocks called the Newsom administration’s new theme park guidelines “arbitrary and unacceptable.”

“The administration’s actions to this point have cost tens of thousands of jobs across the industry, and today’s announcement will all but confirm that thousands more will be lost,” Stocks said in a statement.

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