California Director of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly, gave us hope a couple of weeks ago when he said, “Theme parks continue to be a high priority for the administration…” On Tuesday, our hopes were dashed when Dr. Ghaly, announced the guidelines for reopening amusement parks. Behind The Thrills has incorporated those guidelines into California’s 4-tier color coded system in the table above. Every county is assigned a tier based on COVID-19 prevalence and positivity rate. The tiers dictate which counties can move forward with reopening businesses. California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy website provides the most up-to-date county data, and shows that Orange County, where the Disney parks are located, is currently designated in the red tier 2, and Los Angeles County, where the Universal parks are located, is currently designated in the orange Tier 3. While the smaller theme parks, defined as “parks with overall capacity fewer than 15,000…” can resume operation in the orange Tier 3, the big parks will have to wait for the most stringent risk level, Yellow Tier 4, before they can reopen at 25% capacity.
Erin Guerrero, Executive Director, California Attractions and Parks Association, had this to say:
“Let me be unequivocal– the guidance issued by the Newsom Administration will keep theme parks shuttered for the foreseeable future. By forcing amusement parks to stay closed until their home county reaches Tier 4, the Governor has issued a “Keep Theme Parks Closed Indefinitely” Plan which will devastate California’s major theme park industry.
“This plan prolongs unemployment for tens of thousands of people, hastens bankruptcy for families and small business owners adjacent to parks, and contributes to insolvency for local governments whose budgets rely on parks as an anchor economic driver.
“While we appreciate the more nuanced approach in the guidance for smaller theme parks, keeping California’s larger parks closed is unfair and unreasonable. Based on the responsible reopening of parks in other countries and states, science and data do not support the indefinite closure of this iconic industry in California.
“Responsibly reopening amusement parks on a reasonable timeline can and should be done while we fight this pandemic – the two are not mutually exclusive. California’s theme parks and their phenomenal workforce are ready to reopen responsibly. Parks’ loyal guests are ready and the communities and local governments surrounding the parks are ready. We urge Governor Newsom to revise this guidance to allow for a reasonable and responsible reopening of California’s signature theme park industry in Tier 3.”