Disneyland and Universal Studios’ reopenings could be closer thanks to new guidelines issued by California’s department of health on Friday. Beginning April 1, outdoor stadiums and concert venues can start to bring guests back, with theme parks not far behind.
Outdoor stadiums and concert venues in all counties, regardless of what tier they’re in, will be able to welcome up to 100 California residents beginning on the first day of April. Most counties, including Los Angeles and Orange County, are in the most restrictive Purple Tier, but that could change in the coming weeks if pandemic conditions continue to improve.
Theme parks can reopen on that date at 15% capacity for counties in the Red Tier. That capacity increases to 25% in the Orange Tier and 35% in the Yellow Tier. For outdoor venues, the capacity limits are 20% in the Red Tier, 33% in the Orange Tier and 67% in the Yellow Tier.
All reopenings are subject to mask-wearing and strict COVID-19 protocols.
“With case rates and hospitalizations significantly lower, the arrival of three highly effective vaccines and targeted efforts aimed at vaccinating the most vulnerable communities, California can begin gradually and safely bringing back more activities, especially those that occur outdoors and where consistent masking is possible,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said in a statement. “Even with these changes, California retains some of the most robust public health protocols in the country.”
The April 1 date means that California’s MLB teams — the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics and Padres — can welcome fans back in time for Opening Day.
Both Disneyland and Universal Studios have been closed since March 2020. Disneyland’s closure, along with the reduced capacity at Disney’s other theme parks, have substantially dragged down the company’s bottom line over the past year.
Disneyland’s closure last year led to tension between the company and California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Disney CEO Bob Chapek has harshly criticized the state for how it’s handled the reopening process for major venues, calling out previous state guidelines for setting an “arbitrary standard.”
“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 his own statement on 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.”
Newsom’s handling of the pandemic — including the several changes in how and when different parts of the state were closed down — has been widely criticized in recent months. But after a brutal surge of COVID-19 toward the end of 2020 and the first month of 2021, both cases and death rates have dropped considerably. The pace of vaccinations has also ticked up following a slow initial rollout.