Strict new reopening rules have been established for major theme parks in California, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, as officials grapple with safe ways to restart the economy while dealing with the ongoing pandemic.

California health officials recently announced state-wide guidelines for major theme parks, giving them an idea of when they might reopen. Under the guidelines, the larger parks can reopen at limited capacity once their county has reached tier four, or the yellow tier, of California's COVID-19 economic reopening plan. That is the least restrictive tier and means that coronavirus spread in the county is minimal.

people visit disneyland and walk over commemorative bricks with names in terracotta
Visitors around a 'California' sign at the entrance of Disneyland in Anaheim ©travelview/Getty Images

California is responding to the pandemic by a color-coded tiered system based on daily coronavirus case numbers and positivity rates. Orange County, where Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm are located, is in the red, or second tier, and Los Angeles County, home to Universal Studios, is in the purple tier, the most severe one. If the situation improves for two weeks, counties can move to a less restrictive tier. If it worsens for two weeks, they go up a tier.

According to the New York Times, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, Dr Mark Ghaly, said he believes that counties can get to a less restrictive tier if guidelines are followed. "There’s lots of work we can do together — both state, local, business leaders, community leaders, individuals — to do what we can to make sure that we reduce transmission throughout our county and there is a path forward there,” he said.

Krusty land at The SImpsons area of the Universal Studios Hollywood Park ©Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock

When large parks reopen under the yellow tier, guests must book visits in advance and will be screened for symptoms at the gates. Masks must be worn in the parks, except when eating and drinking. No indoor queues are allowed, and parks must establish a one-way foot traffic system. Larger parks are required to limit capacity to 25%.

Restrictions are looser for smaller parks, i.e. those with a capacity for less than 15,000 people. They're permitted to open when they reach the orange tier. Once reopened, capacity will be limited to 500 guests, or 25% capacity, whichever is less.

The Ferris Wheel at Santa Monica Pier
The Ferris Wheel at Santa Monica Pier. The pier and its attractions are a popular destination for tourists and locals  ©Paper Cat/Shutterstock

Disneyland has been closed since March, while Florida's Disney World reopened in July but reduced its opening hours in September.

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