Nearly a year after Disneyland closed its gates due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the iconic theme park could be reopening next month after California issued new rules Friday.
State health officials announced that the state will allow reopening of outdoor stadiums, ball parks and theme parks with “very reduced capacity” beginning April 1st.
Under the state’s new guidance, theme parks can reopen when the spread of COVID-19 in the county the park is located has been reduced enough to advance out of the state’s most restrictive reopening tier. California has four color-coded tiers with purple being the most stringent.
That means Disneyland will be able to reopen if Orange County, which is currently in the most restrictive purple tier reaches the red, or “substantial,” tier as of April 1. Under this tier, counties can have up to 7 new coronavirus cases a day per 100,000 people and positive test rates of up to 8%.
Orange County is almost there already — as of Friday, the county was sitting at 7.6 new coronavirus cases per day per 100,000 people, with a 3.9% positive rate on test results. Those numbers began plummeting six weeks ago, when the county was sitting at 99.7 cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 19.
There are some limits to its reopening, however.
Once the county reaches the red tier, Disneyland will have to cap its maximum capacity to 15%, with no indoor dining allowed. Only people from the state of California will be allowed in the park, and they must also stick to small groups with a maximum of 10 people. Tickets also need to be purchased online in advance.
When Orange County advances to the orange tier, Disneyland’s capacity will be increased to 25%. In the least-restrictive yellow tier, a capacity of 35% will be allowed.
“We can’t wait to welcome guests back and look forward to sharing an opening date soon,” Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, said in a statement.
Andrea Zinder, president of the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union that represents Disney workers, said employees have been furloughed or out of a job for nearly a year.
“Our Disney cast members are heartened by this good news today that the Disney parks will be reopening in a month,” Zinder said. “[They] are excited to go back to work to provide Californians with a bit more magic in their lives.”
Disneyland closed its gates on March 12, 2020, due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. The theme park initially announced an optimistic reopening for its 65th anniversary on July 17, 2020. But it was forced to backtrack on those plans when California declined to issue theme park reopening guidelines.
The state released its initial theme park reopening guidelines on Oct. 20, which wouldn’t have allowed the park to open until it was in the “yellow” tier, with fewer than 1 daily case per 100,000 people and a 2% positive test rate.
For months, Disney and other theme park operators across California have rallied for months against the state’s limitations.
Meanwhile, Disneyland and other amusement parks like Universal Studios Hollywood announced mini-reopenings for this month, centered around food and shopping in the parks, but without major attractions open.
Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom had hinted that some sort of reopening may be in the horizon. During a Wednesday press briefing, the governor said the state was having “advanced conversations” with Major League Baseball and local health authorities around California about allowing fans inside outdoor stadiums by the time baseball season begins.
Friday’s announcement also comes a day after Newsom issued changes that could allow Southern California counties and others across the state could be cleared to open more businesses and lift other restrictions sooner than anticipated.
The changes will, for the first time, tie reopenings to vaccination totals. The state will also have an equity focus on vaccine distribution that would reserve 40% of the state’s supply for the most vulnerable communities.