Disneyland and other California theme parks will be allowed to reopen starting on April 1st at an extremely reduced capacity.
Per the new guidelines released by the state of California, Disneyland and other theme parks will be able to operate at 15% capacity beginning at the start of next month. The exact date of when each park can open will be dependent on when the individual counties reach California’s ‘red tier,’ which is the second highest tier just below purple. So they won’t all be throwing their gates open on April 1st, but this opens the door for them to do so once this benchmark has been met.
Most theme parks are located in Orange County (Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm), Los Angeles (Universal Studios Hollywood), and San Diego County (Sea World, Legoland). All three counties are currently in the purple tier, so in order for the parks to open immediately on April 1st they will have to downgrade at some point in the next 26 days. Cases are trending downward, however, so this is a very obtainable goal. They may even drop to the next tier down (orange) before that time.
I expect a more official opening announcement at a later date once this criteria has been met. Whether the parks will choose to open on the very first day possible or if they need to have some time to get organized remains to be seen. I would expect them to have plans in place, however, because, let’s be real, there’s not much else happening. I suspect they’re just waiting for word that they can implement these plans.
For those of you who have been following my articles about theme park closures during the pandemic, you may know I’ve been highly critical of Walt Disney World for opening ‘too soon,’ and have been pro-shutdown for a long time. But this time I think the plan for the California parks seem reasonable. A 15% capacity is incredibly light, which should allow for ample social distancing. This plan also requires the trend to be downward instead of opening at our current situation. We’ll also be fairly deep into the vaccination efforts at that point since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been approved. So I feel like this is a cautious and smart way to do this, which earns my incredibly difficult-to-earn Seal of Approval.
Beyond my opinion, however, this is earning praise from the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents many employees of the park, most of whom have been without work for nearly a year. Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Local 324, said the following in a statement:
Our Disney cast members are heartened by this good news today that the Disney parks will be reopening in a month. They have been furloughed or out of a job for a year now and are excited to go back to work to provide Californians with a bit more magic in their lives. Our priority will be to continue to work closely with the Governor and Disney to ensure our members are kept safe from COVID-19 infections on the job as the parks reopen.
I’m more grateful that people who have been out of work for a year can start working again more than anything. I grew up in Southern California and know a lot of people hurting from the park’s closure. It’s been incredibly hard, so I’m eagerly looking forward to them getting word that they can return to work. I only hope the Disneyland cast members are given what they need to remain safe, including being eligible for a vaccine as soon as possible. Protecting their employees should be their top priority.
Some lucky attendees have a chance to enter Disney’s California Adventure starting on March 18th for their Touch of Disney event, which will allow an extremely limited amount of guests to walk around the park, eat, and shop, but all attractions will remain closed. I’m not as thrilled about this event as I am about the April 1st target date as the opening seems somewhat arbitrary and not based on any benchmarks, but it’s not an entirely terrible situation. This event is much more restricted than the potential April 1st (or later) opening, but could still give some people a chance to enjoy some of the magic of the parks.
Disneyland was the fourth Disney park to close last year after the three parks in Asia, but before Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. It’s the only park that hasn’t yet reopened, though a few of the other parks reopened and closed again after cases spiked in their respective areas. At this point, the California and French parks are the only ones that aren’t open to guests, and there’s not much chatter coming out of France about when that one could reopen. As the vaccine rolls out around the world, though, I expect all of them to be open in some capacity by summer. I suspect it’ll be reduced capacity through most of 2021 regardless of location, though.
I have a fair amount confidence that the California park can maintain a certain level of safety and keep both cast members and guests safe. I’ll be interested in seeing a more detailed plan from Disney later when they’ve set an official date, and hope they stick to this cautious approach at every level. I thought the Shanghai park did it incredibly well and hope that the California park makes note of their procedures.
If you decide to go to the park for either event, please wear a mask (even if you’re vaccinated), keep a safe distance from others, and wash your hands as usual. We aren’t out of this situation yet, but we’re incredibly close. We just need to remain vigilant as we start to venture back out in the world. Don’t be a Karen. Follow the rules. Let’s end this pandemic together. And also, in general, don’t be jerks to theme park workers who are putting themselves at risk so you can ride some rides and eat a churro, okay? Be kind.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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