California will allow larger theme parks to reopen with modifications when their county is in the state’s least-restrictive “yellow” tier, likely putting theme parks at least weeks — and potentially months — away from resuming operations.

That announcement was made Tuesday by California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, who released the state’s much-anticipated reopening guidelines for theme parks during the COVID-19 pandemic after a delay earlier this month.

When theme parks do welcome back guests larger ones such as Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain will have to limit capacity to 25% and required advance reservations, according to Ghaly. He said visitors will also have to wear a face mask while in the park, except when eating and drinking.

Smaller amusement parks, meanwhile, can reopen with modifications in the “orange” tier, which is one step down from the “yellow tier.

They will also have capacity limits — up to 25% or 500 guests, whichever is fewer — as well as reservation requirements. However, in the “orange” tier, ticket sales will be limited to people from the county, and only outdoor attractions can open.

There’s lots of work we can do together — both state, local, business leaders, community leaders, individuals — to do what we can to make sure that we reduce transmission throughout our county, and there is a path forward there,” Ghaly said. 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 the county tier requirement ensures that it’s unlikely that any of the popular Southern California theme parks will be open anytime soon.

Orange and San Diego counties — homes to the Disneyland Resort, Knott’s Berry Farm, Legoland and SeaWorld — remain in the “red” tier, which is the second most-restrictive tier and indicates “substantial” risk of COVID-19 spread.

And Los Angeles County, where Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain are located, is still in the most-restrictive “purple” tier due to “widespread” risk of coronavirus transmission.

But even two weeks ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom cast doubt that the state’s larger theme parks would be allowed to resume operations in the near future.

“We don’t anticipate in the immediate term any of these larger theme parks opening until we see more stability in terms of the data,” Newsom said on Oct. 7.

The new rules were unveiled as Disney officials, Orange County lawmakers and — most recently — unions representing Disneyland workers have increased pressure on the state to issue guidance for the ailing sector, which has effectively been shut down since mid-March.

Since early last month, officials have repeatedly insisted the state was getting close to an unveiling the guidance before Newsom’s administration delayed the release on Oct. 2.

Check back for updates on this developing story.


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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