SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Those who were hoping to return to Disneyland and California's other major theme parks are going to have to continue waiting, according to state officials.
On Tuesday, California announced its smaller theme parks located in counties under less-restrictive tiers will be allowed to reopen with modifications.
In addition to Disneyland and California Adventures, the Golden State's bigger theme parks, such as Universal Studios Hollywood and Knott's Berry Farm will be given the green light to reopen with limited capacity once their counties reach the state's Yellow Tier, which is the less restrictive one, according to California Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly.
Disney was quick to respond to the state's latest guidelines, expressing frustration and saying that they have proven they can "responsibly open."
Ken Potrock, Disneyland Resort President issued a statement that said in part:
“The State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities.”
Those who want a taste of the Disney experience in Southern California can visit Downtown Disney, which reopened in July.
Over the summer, Disney officials also announced that they were prepared to reopen its theme parks in phases and that California Adventure Park would reopen before Disneyland.
Being closed for months has been devastating for Disney park employees. The company announced late last month that it was forced to lay off 28,000 employees in California and Florida.
All of California's theme parks have been closed since March amid the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time, most of the theme parks only anticipated being closed for a month.
Disneyland, California Adventures and Knott's Berry Farm are located in Orange County, which remains under the Orange Tier, which is the state’s second-most restrictive one.
According to the new guidelines announced Tuesday, all of Orange County's big parks will remain closed until further notice as the county has yet to reach the Yellow Tier.
Current tier status in California as of October 20, 2020. (Courtesy: California's COVID-19 website)
The Yellow Tier requires coronavirus positivity rates to be under 2% and less than 1 person/100,000 residents testing positive daily (~32 / 3,200,000 Orange County residents). Only eight California counties are currently in the Yellow Tier and the counties that are average a total of roughly 30,000 people, which is slightly less than the population of Laguna Hills.
"Personally, I think that we can look forward to a yellow tier by next summer, hopefully," Orange County Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau said.
Once reaching the Yellow Tier, the theme parks will be able to resume operations, but under strict guidelines and at 25% capacity.
Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain are located in Los Angeles County that remains under the Purple Tier, which is the state's more restrictive one.
Seaworld San Diego will also remain closed as San Diego County also remains in the Red Tier.
In order to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a theme park setting, Dr. Ghaly, said the following will apply:
• Controlled large scale mixing
• Thousands of visitors from the same geographic base
• Visit for a number of hours
• Pre-assigned seating to maintain physical distancing
• Having fewer frequently touched surfaces
• Implementing easier monitoring compliance at seated events
Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday that the state’s "stubbornness" for reopening theme parks was based on a "health-first data-driven decision-making process."
Each Tuesday, Dr. Ghaly provides an update on the state's coronavirus response efforts and announces if counties have moved tiers.
San Francisco became the first county in the Bay Area to move to the Yellow Tier, making it the first large metropolitan area in the state to reach that status.
Also on Tuesday, it was announced Riverside County moved back to the Purple Tier after it was temporarily moved to the less-restrictive "substantial" Red Tier.