Health officials in California have said that certain theme parks and sports stadiums can re-open their doors starting April 1st with larger venues opening later in the month. The news comes after nearly an exact year of mass closures in California and throughout the country over the COVID-19 pandemic. A Disneyland reopening will represent a significant step toward the end of the pandemic, as California has seen some of the strictest closures thus far.
On Friday California health officials released new guidelines as part of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which detailed the types of businesses that can reopen and when. In each tier, however, the re-opening would be geared toward California residents only—meaning no out of state visitors will be able to attend events or theme parks until the state can complete each tier. The state didn’t clarify when that would be, but experts have said that the United States could reach herd immunity by the fall, with that prediction lowering seemingly by the day as the country makes more progress toward ending the pandemic.
The new guidelines have four tiers, each with specific guidelines on every type of business from hair salons to sports stadiums, as well as private and public gatherings of friends and families. The four tiers are based on COVID-19 test positivity rates, with the strictest purple tier being based on a positivity rate of more than eight percent and the least strict yellow tier being based on a positivity rate of less than two percent.
Right now California’s most recent report of its test positivity rate puts it at about 2.4 percent, meaning that California is closer to the yellow tier than it is to the purple tier—though many guidelines do not go into effect until April 1st. Theme parks like Disneyland, for example, are among those that cannot consider re-open their doors until April 1st, and even then larger parks won’t be able to open unless the state declares itself in the Tier 4 re-opening category (like I said though, it’s almost there already).
Once parks can re-open and California reaches Tier 4 and that April 1st date has arrived, amusement parks will be able to open with modifications, and they can only operate at 35 percent capacity with reservations required. There are some other requirements like weekly testing opportunities for employees, as well as only offering reservations to in-state visitors for the foreseeable future.
Up until now the state of California has not provided concrete reopening guidelines for theme parks, event venues and stadiums. Some venues–like Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, were being used as mass testing facilities throughout the pandemic. Disneyland was being used as a mass vaccination site in Orange County, but saw temporary closures over a lack of supply last month. The park also recently began selling tickets to small events in the park, but only to sell food and gifts in the park shops—so no rides.
Right now about 17.5 percent of California has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Los Angeles Times. Epidemiologists warn that around 80 percent of the United States needs to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity—a milestone that could take quite a few months to reach. With new updates to the vaccine rollout (the United States approved a third COVID-19 vaccine from maker Johnson&Johnson just last week), the goalpost for when we could reach that changes constantly, but experts warn that getting too hopeful or confident too early on could be grave for ending the pandemic at all.
Disneyland, which closed its doors nearly a year ago to the day in what would be the longest closure the park has seen since its grand opening in 1955, will likely fall into that later category as it’s one of California’s bigger parks.