The long awaited California theme park reopening guidelines have been announced, and it looks like Disneyland Resort will remain closed for a while.

What’s Happening:

  • This afternoon, the state of California issued their reopening guidelines for theme parks, stadiums, and other businesses that draw large crowds.  
  • Dr. Mark Gahly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services, presented the guidelines this afternoon in a live stream press conference. Read our Theme Park Reopening Live Blog for minute by minute updates from the event.
  • As some expected, Governor Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy will not allow theme parks to reopen until the county where said parks are located reach the 4th or Yellow Tier, indicating that the COVID-19 risk level is “minimal.”

  • Currently Orange County—home of Disneyland—remains in the “Substantial” tier reporting 4.6 cases per day per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 3.2%.
  • When Orange County does reach the “Minimal” tier, Disneyland can begin opening, but will only be allowed to operate at 25% guest capacity.
  • Additionally, other measures would need to be in place, such as reservations and virtual queues, similar to what’s already been implemented at Walt Disney World.  

Some Background:

  • Prior to the release of reopening guidelines, Orange County Health Officials urged California to allow Disneyland (and Knott’s Berry Farm) to reopen in the 3rd or Orange Tier where risk level is “Moderate.”
  • However, Gov. Newsom said they would be taking a “health-first framework” and they’d be stubborn about it.
  • To give a clear picture on where Orange County believes they can operate safely and what the state is currently requiring, we’ve listed the reopening guidelines for the Orange and Yellow tiers.

Reopening Guidelines

These are Tier specific guidelines that are required in addition to other control measures and screenings outlined in the full reopening guidelines

Yellow – Minimal – Tier 4:

  • Operations are permitted for all amusement park operators with the following modifications:
    • Capacity must be limited to 25% of total facility occupancy based on the design/operating capacity or fire department occupant limit, whichever is fewer.
    • Capacity on all indoor dining and drinking establishments within the park must be limited to 25%.
    • Operators must follow the modifications in this guidance and must be prepared for inspections by public health officials to ensure adequate implementation of all required modifications.
    • Operators must address and implement any resulting findings and recommendations.

Orange – Moderate – Tier 3:

  • Operations are permitted only for smaller parks (see definition below) and those operators must implement the following modifications:
    • Smaller parks are defined as parks with overall capacity fewer than 15,000 based on the design/operating capacity or fire department occupant limit.
    • Capacity must be limited to 25% of total facility occupancy based on the design/operating capacity or fire department occupant limit – whichever is fewer – or 500 people, whichever is fewer.
    • Only outdoor attractions are permitted to open; all other indoor attractions must remain closed.
    • Ticket sales must be limited only to those visitors who reside in the same county as the park’s location.
    • Operators must follow the modifications in this guidance and must be prepared for inspections by public health officials to ensure adequate implementation of all required modifications.
    • Operators must address and implement any resulting findings and recommendations.

What This Means for Disneyland and Knott’s:

  • With these guidelines, the soonest Disneyland could reopen would be November 24, however that would depend on a rapid decrease in cases in Orange County.

What About Universal?:

  • And for those wondering about the other big park in Southern California, Universal Studios Hollywood, their opening will be even more delayed than Disneyland. The park is located in Los Angeles county which is currently in the Purple or “Widespread” tier.

What They’re Saying:

  • Statement from Disneyland President Ken Potrock: “We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world. Nevertheless, 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. Together with our labor unions we want to get people back to work, but these State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community.”
  • Dr. Clayton Chau, Director, Orange County Health Care Agency: “I think for a large county like us, especially a county with institution of higher education where folks [are] coming in from outside the county and outside the state, I think it’s going to be very hard to achieve the yellow tier.”
  • Dr. Clayton Chau: “It depends on when the vaccine will come as well as how many doses [are] available for our populations as well as how many of our residents will readily accept the vaccine – those are the three factors that will determine how soon we can get to the yellow tier.”
  • Dr. Clayton Chau: “Personally, I think that we can look forward to a yellow tier by next summer, hopefully. Hopefully.”
  • Statement from Harry Sidhu, Mayor of Anaheim: "These guidelines fail working families and small businesses. As painful as this is, Disney and the City of Anaheim will survive. But too many Anaheim hotels, stores and restaurants will not survive another year of this. Many are family businesses. The jobs they provide support to other families. We can safely and responsibly open our theme parks and convention center soon. The unions of the Disneyland Resort agree and now support the reopening of the theme parks in Tier 3 – not Tier 4, which would wipe out jobs in our city and destroy lives.”