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California Theme Parks See Long Path Toward Reopening

California health officials on Tuesday revealed a path to reopening for Disneyland and other theme parks in the state, but given the spread of the Covid-19 virus would-be vacationers should hold off on planning a visit anytime soon.

(CN) — California health officials on Tuesday revealed a path to reopening for Disneyland and other theme parks in the state, but given the spread of the Covid-19 virus would-be vacationers should hold off on planning a visit anytime soon.

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios and the like will open when their counties fall to the “minimal” tier on the state’s color-coded guideline to reopening. The “yellow” tier amounts to a near complete reopening of the economy, albeit with modifications, and is achieved when a county’s positivity rate drops to less than 1 per 100,000 residents.

To date, only eight of California’s 58 counties have achieved yellow status — and none of them boast major theme parks.

Smaller theme parks can reopen outdoor attractions only at limited capacity in counties that have reached the orange or “moderate” tier. Visitors to those parks must be county residents only.

Large theme parks represent higher risk because they see a large mix of people from all over the world who would likely use services outside the theme parks they visit, like hotels and restaurants.

“People visiting certain settings for a number of days, not just for a few hours, but spending a whole week or a weekend in a community, that might promote mixing and congregating,” Ghaly said during a virtual briefing on Tuesday. “That could be just enough to create outbreaks and transmissions risks that California doesn’t want to see.”

Currently Orange County — where both Disneyland and Knott’s are located — is in the red or “substantial” tier, two above yellow. But Universal Studios and Magic Mountain are both in Los Angeles County, which languishes in the purple or “widespread” category with an average of seven new cases daily per 100,000 residents.

When they do reopen, all theme parks will need to have a reservation system and screen guests for symptoms. Face masks will be mandatory unless someone is eating or drinking according to the guidelines released Tuesday.

That means guests cannot show up the day-of to buy tickets and go into the park.

Last month, Disneyland announced it would lay off 28,000 theme park employees amid the pandemic that has kept the park closed since March.

Sports and those who enjoy them got better news from Ghaly on Tuesday: Professional sporting events can reopen in orange-tier counties at 20% stadium capacity and at 25% capacity in yellow-tier counties. But ticket sales will be restricted to a 120-mile radius around the venue, tailgating will be forbidden and guests will have to park at the stadium if they want to attend any event.

Sporting events can be better controlled since they are shorter than days at theme parks. And forcing pre-assigned seating and having food and drink delivered to people at their seats make sporting events less risky.

Ghaly said the state worked with industry and labor unions to come up with requirements and modifications, which support a slow approaching to resuming some kind of normal under Covid-19.

As of Tuesday, California has 884,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 17,000 people are dead. The spread of the virus remains steady for most of the state with some counties continuing to see widespread rates of infection.

Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties are all seeing widespread outbreak of Covid-19 and California health officials announced they are going to work in partnership to try and stem the spread of the virus.

State epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said Shasta and Riverside counties moved backward into the purple or “widespread” tier, meaning more than seven new Covid infections per 100,000 residents.

Riverside joins LA and San Bernardino counties to form a large section of Southern California that is now in the midst of widespread infection moving into flu season. The state is paying close attention to the region, Pan said, and state officials will roll out tactics they utilized in the Central Valley when that part of the state saw large outbreaks.

The tactics include increased testing in key areas, including mobile testing and helping people isolate themselves if they can’t do so easily.

“Really importantly to this pandemic is partnering with the community-based organizations on the ground,” said Pan. “We really need trusted community partners to reach individual cases.”

Ghaly did not mention Shasta County when discussing the state's work with other widespread counties. Shasta County leaders said Tuesday the county, located in extreme Northern California, intends to break away from the state’s tier system.

But other counties saw progress in the coronavirus fight. Butte and Napa counties moved from the red or “substantial” tier to the orange tier, and San Francisco County moved into the yellow or “minimal” tier.

Categories / Entertainment, Health, Sports

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