Theme parks in California including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood can reopen starting April 1 with social distancing restrictions if certain Covid-19 metrics are met, state officials announced Friday, in welcome news for the industry and local officials who have been pressuring the state for months to allow parks to reopen.
Disneyland remains closed due to Covid-19 on November 21, 2020 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by … [+]
Theme parks will be allowed to reopen to California residents only, without indoor dining and with limits on indoor rides.
Parks in counties that are in the state’s most restrictive purple tier of Covid-19 restrictions will not be allowed to reopen, and park capacity will be determined by a county’s tier: counties in the least-restrictive yellow tier can operate at 35% capacity, 25% capacity for the orange tier and 15% capacity for the red tier.
Previously, the state had blocked larger theme parks from reopening unless their counties reached the yellow tier and had fewer than one daily Covid-19 case per 100,000 residents, which theme park operators believed was overly restrictive.
Theme parks had expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future due to the previous restrictions, with Disney executives predicting during its first-quarter earnings call that Disneyland would remain closed for the company’s entire second quarter.
Disneyland, Universal and Six Flags Magic Mountain cheered the announcement in statements Friday and said details about their reopening would be coming soon.
Officials also said Friday that outdoor stadiums and live performances will be reopening with restrictions in place, as part of a broader “Blueprint Refresh” announcement in the state.
California’s Orange and Los Angeles counties—where Disneyland and Universal are located, respectively—are currently in the purple tier, which would keep them from being allowed to reopen immediately. They are both expected to soon move into the red tier and thus be allowed to reopen, however, KTLA reports.
“We are encouraged that theme parks now have a path toward reopening this spring, getting thousands of people back to work and greatly helping neighboring businesses and our entire community,” Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock said in a statement Friday. “With responsible Disney safety protocols already implemented around the world, we can’t wait to welcome our guests back and look forward to sharing an opening date soon.”
The new reopening guidelines bring an end to a lengthy standoff. Disney and other theme park operators fiercely lobbied the state to reopen and local officials and lawmakers decried the economic toll of the theme parks’ closures on their areas, introducing legislation that would enable parks to reopen sooner. Gov. Gavin Newsom remained staunchly opposed to loosening their restrictions, however, leading to a tense clash between the two sides that even saw Disney Chairman Robert Iger quit the state’s economic task force. The state’s theme parks have now been largely shuttered since last March, though some have started offering dining events to bring in some crowds while complying with state guidelines. Disneyland’s Downtown Disney shopping district has remained open, and the resort reopened some shopping and dining offerings in its Disney California Adventure theme park in November. The park will soon expand its offerings even further with a ticketed event at California Adventure that starts March 18.
California’s decision to reopen theme parks is part of a broader push by states to lift their Covid-19 restrictions in response to a recent decline in cases, which public health officials have warned is ill-advised as coronavirus cases remain high. “It may seem tempting in the face of all of this progress to try to rush back to normalcy as if the virus is in the rearview mirror,” White House Covid-19 advisor Andy Slavitt said at a briefing Friday. “It’s not.”
Some outdoor ballparks, stadiums and theme parks eligible to reopen April 1 in California, state officials announce (KTLA)
Disneyland’s California Adventure Theme Park To Reopen With Dining Experience Amid Closure (Forbes)
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California Releases Theme Park Guidelines—But Disneyland Isn’t Reopening Anytime Soon (Forbes)
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I am a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I previously covered politics and news for Vanity Fair and Mic, and as a theater critic I serve as a