STUDIO CITY—The California Department of Public Health released new reopening guidelines for amusements parks in the state on Tuesday, October 20.
The new guidelines establish that large amusement parks will only be allowed to open when the counties where they are located have moved into the last tier under the state’s reopening “tier” system.
On August 28, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a blueprint for counties in the state to determine which businesses could reopen based on “how prevalent COVID-19 is in each county and the extent of community spread.”
Within that framework, counties can fall into one of four colored tiers – Purple (Widespread), Red (Substantial), Orange (Moderate) and Yellow (Minimal).
“We don’t anticipate in the immediate term any of these larger theme parks opening until we see more stability in terms of the data,” said Governor Newsom during a news conference on October 7.
Karen Irwin, President and Chief Operating Officer for Universal Studios Hollywood, said in a statement that waiting until Los Angels County reaches “yellow tier” status “makes no sense.”
“It ignores science, reason and the economic devastation this will bring to the thousands of our employees, the indirect businesses that rely on us and our industry overall,” Irwin said. “We should be in Tier Three, along with other industries that have proven they can reopen responsibly.”
California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in the announcement that local officials sent a team to analyze how other theme parks across the country have been dealing with reopening operations.
“We saw that we were very reassured by were really great management… but also some things that raised some concern,” said Ghaly.
If Los Angeles County reaches the last “yellow tier” — it currently stands as “purple,” the most restrictive of the tier levels — parks will reopen with capacity limited at 25 percent. Smaller theme parks are allowed to open under “orange tier” status in their counties. They are also restricted to the 25 percent capacity limit.
Irwin noted that Los Angeles County may only reach “yellow tier” status in 2021.
“Our employees are ready to go back to work and the fact that they won’t be able to do so until well into next year is shameful,” Irwin added, pointing out Universal’s reopening operations in Orlando, Osaka, and Singapore.
“We have collaborated with LA County health and government officials on a comprehensive plan to move forward safely here, and we are prepared and ready to reopen. Our theme parks are controlled primarily outdoor businesses that we have proven we can operate responsibly,” Irwin added.
Universal Studios Hollywood humorously responded to the guidelines on Twitter, saying “It’s official. We’ll only be responding to 25% of our tweets until further notice.”