The California plan for reopening ties loosening of restrictions to decreased transmission of the virus in the community. It’s a four tier system ranging from Purple to Green.
Since November 2020, most of the state has been in the highest purple tier where the seven day average has widespread transmission higher than 7 new cases a day per 100,000 people and a Health Equity rate (measures transmission in lower-income and harder hit areas, including Anaheim) of more than 8%.
The good news is that restrictions have worked and transmission is decreasing in most of the state. Although 40 of 58 counties are still in the purple zone, most are decreasing fast enough that, if trends continue, in the next 7 to 14 days they could return to Red tier status.
Orange County and Los Angeles county, two of the largest population centers in California, are still in the purple risk tier, but transmission rates might enter the red or orange range in the next few weeks.
In fact, health department figures show that the positivity rate has decreased into the red tier already and the daily case rate is trending down rapidly. Orange County officials expect all areas of the county to reach the red tier this week.
Red allows for most businesses to reopen with reduced capacity. Stores are currently at 25% capacity, but that would increase to 50%. Aquariums, zoos, and museums could reopen to 25% capacity. You may even be able to dine indoors or enjoy a movie at 25% capacity as well.
Alas, according to the chart, while orange means many more currently closed locations can open for limited capacity, that does not include major theme parks, like Disneyland. As the rules are written now, that has to wait until the yellow risk tier is reached for Orange County.
Disneyland, other theme parks, and local politicians have been asking to have theme parks reopening at 25% capacity bumped up to the orange tier. It’s certainly a lot safer to be on a limited capacity attraction, especially an outdoor one, with a mask for a few minutes, than dining indoors for an hour or more. With appropriate safety measures and maybe travel restrictions in place, this seems like a reasonable ask to us.
There is a bill that has been introduced in the state legislature that would move theme parks into the Orange tier. If approved, Assembly Bill 420 would treat theme parks the same as outdoor stadiums and restaurants allowing them to reopen at 25% capacity in the Orange tier.
Meanwhile, the Disneyland Resort has partially reopened the Lake Buena Vista street area of Disney California Adventure, but only for shopping and dining, as allowed by state rules.
What about vaccinations?
The other factor involved in potentially reopening Disneyland and other Southern California theme parks is vaccinations. Los Angeles county has already vaccinated 2.2 million residents and Orange County has reached more than 775,000.
That’s nowhere near enough for herd immunity, but with President Biden announcing that there will be enough doses for every adult in America to have one before the end of May, that does sound very promising.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has said the company is watching vaccination rates to determine how fast to staff up and reopen the company’s parks and resorts. In fact, the Grand Californian Resort has started accepting reservations for its DVC side for dates beginning May 2, 2021.
So if you get the jab and tell everyone you know to get the jab as soon as they’re eligible, then Disneyland might be able to open in time for Summer 2021 fun.
I don’t want to get too exuberant, but with mask restrictions and some social distancing still in place (not all kids will be able to get vaccinated immediately so transmission is still an issue), I could see all of Disney’s north American locations open with near full capacity by mid to late summer.
We love Disney’s theme parks, we wouldn’t be writing this blog if we didn’t, but we also don’t want unnecessary death and illness to spread through the community. We think Disney has done a good job prioritizing health and safety at Walt Disney World and feel confident Disneyland will follow suit.
What’s the bottom line?
If trends continue as they are in Los Angeles and Orange County, and AB420 is passed and signed by the Governor, then we expect the major theme parks to reopen in limited capacity sometime in April or May. If that’s going to happen, some cast members will be called back to work in the next few weeks in order to begin safety checks on attractions and start rehiring and retraining to staff the parks and resorts.
We hope it will be safe for California’s urban theme parks to open soon. We can’t wait to see the beloved cast members of the Disneyland Resort back at work making the magic for everyone.