California’s state government announced reopening guidelines for the theme park industry Tuesday following a major pressure campaign from Disney, theme park operators and local officials to let major theme parks reopen—though the restrictive guidelines ensure that Disneyland and other major theme parks will not reopen for potentially weeks or months until the Covid-19 pandemic improves.
Some background: California has a four tiered county risk level for COVID-19 based on how many are sick and how many new cases are reported: Widespread, Substantial, Moderate, and Minimal. Today, Orange County is in the Substantial red tier, and the state has said Disneyland can’t reopen until Orange County is in the Minimal — or lowest — yellow tier. The Minimal tier is reached when counties report daily new cases at less than 1 per 100,000 people and tests that are positive is under 2%.
But there is some good news: San Francisco made it to the Minimal yellow tier today by strictly following public health guidance, allowing them to re-open significantly more places in the city. So it’s very possible for Orange County to get to that Minimal tier before the end of the year — but that being said, Orange County (and nearby Los Angeles County) have struggled to keep COVID cases low, and both are seeing surges in cases.
Even when allowed to reopen, Disneyland will require guests to wear face masks, following social distancing, reserve tickets in advance, reduce overall park capacity, and nix the meet-and-greets and parades and fireworks.
There’s also lots of criticism from Disney and Anaheim, including Mayor Harry Sidhu, who said the restrictions “fail working families and local businesses.”
In fairness to Disney, their Florida resort reopened in July and has had no serious outbreaks reported since that time and very few Cast Members reporting sick, according to The New York Times, although Disney won’t release specific numbers.
Also: Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain are both located in Los Angeles County, which is currently deep in the Widespread tier.
For me, lives come first, so I’m in support of California’s guidance for theme park reopening. But, damn, when I wish upon a star these days I’m wishing this pandemic was over, Hilary was president, and Disneyland was open.