California’s theme parks can reopen with restrictions under new state guidelines released on Tuesday, but major parks in Orange and Los Angeles County — including Disneyland and Universal Studios — don’t make the cut.
Under the guidelines, smaller parks can reopen outdoor attractions with 500 visitors or at 25% capacity, whichever is fewer, if the county the park is located in has reached the state’s “moderate” tier. Guests must also be from the same county as where the park is located, and reservations or advanced ticket sales are required. And for theme parks located in counties that have reached the state’s “minimal” tier (i.e., the least restrictive tier), all parks will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity.
Face coverings will be mandatory at all theme parks that reopen unless guests are eating or drinking, and the parks must implement a reservation system that screens guests in advance for any COVID-19 symptoms.
Based on these guidelines, however, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios and Six Flags must remain closed because Orange and Los Angeles County have not met the criteria to reach the “moderate” tier yet, according to the state’s county dashboard. (Orange County — where Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm is located — is still in the “substantial” tier, while L.A. County — home to Universal and Six Flags — is in the worst “widespread” tier.)
Still, the guidelines offer a “path forward” for these parks to reopen, Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said on Tuesday. But for executives at Disneyland and Universal Studios, the guidelines presented another hurdle to reopening.
“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,” Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock said in a statement sent to TheWrap. “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.”
Karen Irwin, the president and chief operating officer for Universal Studios Hollywood, also slammed the guidelines as “shameful.”
“Pushing us into Tier Four behind other businesses that have already reopened makes no sense. It ignores science, reason and the economic devastation this will bring to the thousands of our employees, the indirect businesses that rely on us and our industry overall,” Irwin said in a statement. “We should be in Tier Three, along with other industries that have proven they can reopen responsibly. Our employees are ready to go back to work and the fact that they won’t be able to do so until well into next year is shameful.”