California theme parks allowed to reopen as early as April 1

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Theme parks in California could be reopening much sooner than expected. 

On Friday, California updated its reopening guidelines, allowing Disneyland and other theme parks to reopen as soon as next month, according to an announcement from the state Department of Public Health. 

Theme parks — as well as sports events and live performances with attendees — will be allowed to reopen outdoors, with reduced capacity and “consistent masking,” on April 1, the announcement said. 

However, venues will have to limit attendance to in-state visitors. Sports events and live performances will even have to limit attendance to regional visitors, depending on the county’s coronavirus case rates, according to the announcement.

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“With case rates and hospitalizations significantly lower, the arrival of three highly effective vaccines and targeted efforts aimed at vaccinating the most vulnerable communities, California can begin gradually and safely bringing back more activities, especially those that occur outdoors and where consistent masking is possible,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency said in a statement. “Even with these changes, California retains some of the most robust public health protocols in the country.”

A Disneyland entrance is pictured in March 2020 after the park’s first coronavirus closure. The park could reopen on April 1 if Orange County enters California’s "Red tier." (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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In order to reopen on April 1, theme parks will have to be in a county that is in the “Red tier” — considered the “substantial” level on California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy system. 

Previously, theme parks weren’t allowed to reopen until their counties reached the “Yellow tier,” or the level with the lowest coronavirus case rates, KTLA reported.

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Orange County and Los Angeles County — where Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood are located — are in the “Purple tier,” which is the highest level, but are getting close to moving into the “Red tier,” the station reported Thursday. 

Universal Studios Hollywood could be allowed to reopen by April 1, if Los Angeles County enters California’s "Red tier." (iStock)

If their counties are in the “Red tier” by April 1, theme parks will be allowed to open at 15% capacity. They can open at 25% capacity if they’re in the “Orange tier,” or 35% capacity in the “Yellow tier,” the announcement said. 

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Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock released a statement Friday after the state announced the updated guidelines.

“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,” Potrock said. “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.”

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Though they can’t operate attractions and rides, both Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood have started selling tickets for their own outdoor dining and shopping experiences on weekends. 

Disneyland’s “A Touch of Disney” will begin on March 18 and will run Thursdays through Mondays. Universal’s “Taste of Universal” will begin on March 12 and will run Fridays through Sundays.

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