Disneyland Resort and Knott’s Berry Farm cannot reopen until Orange County enters California's least-restrictive COVID-19 tier, according to state guidelines released Tuesday, something health experts expect will not happen until next summer.
California counties are assigned one of four tiers that are determined by the positivity rates of coronavirus cases — the first tier is the most restrictive and the fourth being the least. Counties can transition into a new tier every three weeks, after they have been re-evaluated.
Orange County has remained in the second tier since early September, while Los Angeles County remains in the first tier.
The new state protocols allow for smaller theme parks with a capacity of under 15,000 people to reopen when inside the third tier. Larger parks like Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios can only open in the fourth tier.
When the parks reopen, total capacity, and indoor restaurants and drinking establishments inside the park, must be limited to 25%. Face covering requirements must be enforced at all times, except when eating or drinking.
Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency, said he thinks Orange County will enter the fourth tier in summer 2021.
A statement issued by Ken Potrock, the Disneyland Resort president, displayed his frustration with the state's decision.
“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,” Potrock said. “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.”
Potrock said the theme park, alongside employee labor unions, wants to open sooner. He said the guidelines will continue to force thousands into unemployment, leading small family-owned businesses into inevitable closures and irreparably damaging the community.
Last month, Disney announced the planned layoffs of 28,000 theme park employees in California and Florida.
Last weekend, Disneyland workers and enthusiasts gathered in Anaheim to protest the state’s hesitation to set reopening guidelines. Many held signs that demanded the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Union workers who were once against Disneyland’s plans to reopen the park in July, are now urging the state to let the parks reopen.
On Monday, Newsom said that the state has been stubborn about certain industries that have been eager to receive guidelines.
"I hope one recognizes our stubbornness on a health-first, data-driven decision making process is done with our eyes wide open on what's happening now around the world," Newsom said. "We have to maintain that vigilance so we can avoid any further increase in transmission."
Walt Disney World in Florida has been open since July, enforcing capacity limits, mandatory face-covering requirements and temperature checks. Disneyland theme parks in Paris, Shanghai and Hong Kong have also opened.
Knott’s Berry Farm remains open for food-only events while following COVID-19 safety precautions.