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Some outdoor ballparks, stadiums and theme parks will be eligible for reopening with “very reduced capacity” beginning April 1 in counties that meet certain conditions, California officials announced Friday.

The unexpected announcement makes changes to the state’s COVID-19 framework called the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, allowing for what the California Department of Public Health called “activities that can be conducted outdoors with consistent masking.”

The change is made possible by lower case rates and hospitalizations, along with the distribution of three COVID-19 vaccines and a plan for more equitable distribution of those vaccines, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency.

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

The ability to reopen sports venues, live performances and theme parks is contingent on where counties stand in the state’s color-coded reopening blueprint. Most counties, including all those in Southern California, remain in the most restrictive purple tier. But many will be likely to move into the red tier in coming weeks.

The changes announced Friday include the following, effective April 1:

Outdoor sports at ballparks and stadiums, and live performances:

  • counties in the purple tier: limited to 100 or fewer “regional attendees”; advance reservations required; no concession or concourse sales
  • counties in the red tier: limited to 20% capacity; in-state visitors only; no concourse sales but primarily in-seat concession sales
  • counties in the orange tier: limited to 33% capacity; in-state visitors only
  • counties in the yellow tier: limited to 67% capacity; in-state visitors only

Amusement and theme parks:

  • counties in the red tier: limited to 15% capacity
  • counties in the orange tier: limited to 25% capacity
  • counties in the yellow tier: limited to 35% capacity
  • no indoor dining
  • limits on indoor rides

In addition, theme parks should only be accepting visitors from inside the state of California, Ghaly said during a news briefing Friday, adding that a statewide travel advisory remains in place.

Dee Dee Myers, an adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom, said operators will be able to determine where people are coming from to restrict access because theme parks are required to have people make reservations online prior to their visits.

The new rules also only pertains to outdoor activities. Attending indoor events, such as NBA games and concerts, is still prohibited, regardless of a county’s reopening status.

Myers said coming up with rules for indoor events is “much more difficult.” She said the state “will continue to work on that” in the coming weeks and will try to update the state’s blueprint to provide “a path forward for more businesses.”

Meanwhile, Friday’s announcement was good news for major theme parks, which have been shuttered for about a year as the state grappled with several virus surges. 

Under the state’s previous reopening framework, large theme parks weren’t allowed to open until the counties they’re located in reach the yellow tier, the least restrictive of the state’s four-tier reopening plan. Currently, most of California’s counties are in the most restrictive purple tier, with Los Angeles and Orange counties expected to move to the red tier

Two state lawmakers from Southern California introduced a bill last month meant to put pressure on Newsom to speed up the reopening of the state’s major theme parks, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood.

The rules announced Friday coincide with baseball’s opening day. The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics all have home games scheduled for April 1, while the Los Angeles Dodgers are scheduled to play their home opener April 9.

The new changes also come after Newsom announced on Wednesday an equity focus on vaccine distribution using the state’s Healthy Places Index, a resource that showcases community conditions that predict life expectancy and influence health. The governor said that 40% of vaccine supply will be reserved for the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Once 2 million vaccines have been distributed to vulnerable communities, officials said the state will make it easier for counties to move through the tiers and reopen their economies.