California theme parks can return to full capacity, must verify COVID-19 vaccinations and tests

Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other California theme parks can end capacity limits and social distancing next month under revised COVID-19 guidelines that call for “mega events” to verify coronavirus vaccines or tests of visitors.

California officials will lift attendance limitations and physical distancing requirements for the state’s theme parks when COVID-19 health and safety mandates end in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy on June 15 and the state economy fully reopens.

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The state’s new Beyond the Blueprint guidelines bring to an end restrictions that require California theme parks to limit attendance to 15% capacity in the red/substantial tier 2, 25% capacity in the orange/moderate tier 3 and 35% capacity in the yellow/minimal tier 4 of the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Disney, Universal and other California parks can return to 100% capacity on June 15.

The Beyond the Blueprint guidelines lay out restrictions for indoor and outdoor “mega events” that attract thousands of people to their venues.

Some California theme parks could fit into the outdoor mega events category in the new state guidelines, according to the California Attractions and Parks Association.

“The latest state guidance gives amusement parks a path to get more people back to work and provides visitors more options for safe family fun this summer,” CAPA executive director Sabrina Demayo Lockhart said in a statement. “The safety of amusement park guests and our staff remain a top priority. As the state economy reopens, amusement parks will update their own safe and responsible plans for operation based on state and local guidelines.“

The Sacramento-based CAPA represents Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, Legoland California, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and California’s Great America.

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Under the latest state guidelines, mega events that draw large crowds are broken into two categories — indoor events with more than 5,000 attendees or outdoor events with more than 10,000 people.

Theme parks were not specifically mentioned in the new Beyond the Blueprint guidelines. Outdoor mega events include sporting events, concerts, music or food festivals, car shows, marathons and parades. Indoor mega events include sporting events, concerts, conventions and conferences.

Vaccine and negative COVID-19 test verifications are recommended for outdoor mega events and required for indoor mega events under the new Beyond the Blueprint restrictions.

Outdoor mega events are strongly recommended to verify that visitors have been fully vaccinated for coronavirus or received a recent negative COVID-19 test. Outdoor mega events should ask visitors who haven’t been vaccinated to wear a mask, according to the guidelines. Indoor mega events are required to verify that visitors have been fully vaccinated or tested.

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Fully vaccinated mega event attendees must show a vaccination card (a photo of the card or a mobile app version are permitted). Unvaccinated mega event attendees must show results from a COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours of the start of the event. Mega events can collect the test results and vaccine verifications before visitor arrival.

The mega event vaccination and testing mandates run through Oct. 1 and will be reassessed on Sept. 1.

Some large venues have already begun requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results. Fans attending Lakers games or concerts at Staples Center in Los Angeles must provide health verification, according to the venue’s website.

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