As Orange County lingers in red COVID-19 tier, Disneyland continues to make safety modifications

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While Orange County remains in a restrictive COVID-19 tier, Disneyland continues to make safety modifications as it awaits a reopening that officials say will not come anytime soon.

Photos show plexiglass safety shields at the entry turnstiles at Disneyland — the latest in a series of safety measures implemented by the company, including installing hand sanitizing stations, posting markings on the ground and setting up shields on rides. 

Disneyland official Mary Niven told the Orange County Register the theme park is installing more than 23,000 coronavirus safety measures, including working with engineers on attractions to make sure guests can maintain 6 feet of physical distancing, and expanding mobile ordering for food and drinks.

Orange County is currently in the red tier, the second-most restrictive in the state’s four-tier system for reopenings. California officials last week announced that counties can’t reopen theme parks until they reach the least-restrictive yellow tier.

But to get there, the county would need to have less than one daily new case per 100,000 residents, bring its average positivity rate below 2% and the positivity rate in the county’s lowest-resourced areas below 2.2%.

Currently, O.C. records an average of about 5.1 new cases per 100,000 residents, has a 3.2% positivity rate and a 6% health equity quartile positivity rate — still a long way to go.

County health officer Dr. Clayton Chau said it will be difficult for Orange County to reach the yellow tier before summer 2021.

Disneyland has been closed since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic and there has been mounting pressure to reopen the theme park in recent weeks. The company has called the state’s new reopening rules as “arbitrary” and “unworkable.”

Even when the theme park does reopen, it will be very different.

The state’s guidelines, released on Oct. 20, forces large theme parks to limit capacity to 25% and require reservations in advance to curb the spread of the virus.

How widespread is the virus in Orange County?

Orange County has recorded a total of 59,213 coronavirus cases and 1,467 deaths attributed to COVD-19.

A recent antibody study found that around 11.5% of Orange County residents may have had coronavirus by August, with Latinos disproportionately affected.

The findings suggest that the coronavirus may have been more prevalent than the county’s data shows.

Researchers led by UC Irvine and O.C. Health Care Agency tested residents at 11 drive-thru sites for a wide range of coronavirus antibodies.

“Our study demonstrates that while a significant number of O.C. residents were already exposed and developed antibodies to COVID-19, much of the county still remains vulnerable to the virus,” said Bernadette Boden-Albala, director of UCI’s Program in Public Health.

Researchers said it’s not yet clear what levels of antibodies indicate about immunity to the virus, but follow-ups with those who tested positive will shed more light on the matter over time.

Correction: A previous version of this story provided an incorrect figure for the daily case rate. This post has been updated.

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