California Will Allow Some Theme Parks to Reopen April 1, State Officials Say

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For the moment, most SoCal theme parks are in counties with the most restrictive pandemic tier, but several will likely move into the red tier in coming weeks.

Some theme parks will be eligible for reopening with “very reduced capacity” beginning next month, California officials announced Friday.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said in a news release, “California can begin gradually and safely bringing back more activities, especially those that occur outdoors and where consistent masking is possible. Even with these changes, California retains some of the most robust public health protocols in the country.”

Theme parks around the state have been in a bitter stalemate with Gov. Gavin Newsom for the better part of a year, pushing to be allowed to reopen with new health and safety measures in place. Disney had been the most vocal.

“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 stated. "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."

For the moment, most Southern California theme parks are in counties with the most restrictive pandemic tier, but several, including Orange County where Disneyland is located, will likely move into the red tier in coming weeks. That tier will now allow 20 percent capacity and in-state visitors only.

“Today’s announcement from the Newsom administration is very encouraging news for California’s amusement parks," said Erin Guerrero, executive director of California Attractions and Parks Association. "Parks now have a framework to safely and responsibly reopen. We appreciate the administration’s willingness to work with the state’s theme parks on the finer details of the plan so parks can responsibly reopen soon, putting people safely back to work and reinvigorating local economies.”

All the theme parks shuttered around mid-March last year as the pandemic took hold over the country. The results of those closures have been devastating for the companies, employees and communities in which they operate.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu recently told The Hollywood Reporter that the theme parks' closure has had a “profound impact” on the region. “Unemployment in our city is now 9 percent, or 15,000 people, and has been as high as 12 percent — numbers not seen since the Great Recession,” Sidhu said. “Anaheim faces a $115 million budget deficit from lost revenue from hotel stays and visitor spending.”

The major announcement comes as Newsom is facing political pressure to reopen more businesses as organizers aim to collect 1.49 million signatures before a March 17 deadline to kick-start a recall election.