Nearly a year after coronavirus restrictions forced the closure of major entertainment venues, California has paved the way for fans to attend opening-day baseball games and return to Disneyland.
With COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths plummeting and vaccination rates increasing, the state on Friday relaxed guidelines for reopening outdoor venues as a fall and winter boom appeared to be coming to an end.
Live concerts at stadiums and sports arenas will be allowed to reopen with reduced attendance on April 1 under new public health regulations. Amusement parks will also be allowed to reopen in counties that have moved from the state’s most stringent purple tier to the red tier.
Park capacity will be restricted in all situations, and COVID-19 safety regulations such as mask-wearing standards will be enforced.
Following a week of accomplishments, California increased vaccines for the poorest areas, counties reopened more businesses, and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill allowing schools that have limited students to online learning to reopen classrooms this month.
“The data supports a clear opening. Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, clinical professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, said, “When cases decrease, we want to return to work and education.” “In particular, outdoor activities have always been low-risk. It makes sense to open these sites.”
For Kenny King Jr., a resident of Pleasant Hill in the San Francisco Bay Area who became an annual Disneyland passholder a decade ago, the reopening can’t come soon enough. He usually takes his family to the Southern California park five times a year, but his most recent visit was for his birthday just over a year ago.
King, 38, of said he’s looking forward to returning with his 8-year-old daughter, who has only recently begun to enjoy rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, as well as his 2-year-old son, who was mesmerized by the lights and sounds when he visited last year.
“Disney trips are something we just started doing as a family,” King said. “Every now and then, we’ll sit around the house and say, ‘Man, I miss Disneyland.’”
Thousands of staff who were laid off by Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, and other major attractions were also applauding. At Disneyland and its associated attractions in Orange County, alone, ten thousand people lost their jobs, not to mention the effect on nearby restaurants and hotels.
Employees are “excited to go back to work and provide Californians with a little of magic in their lives,” according to Andrea Zinder, president of the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents Disney employees.
Southern California, which is also in the purple band, is home to the majority of the big theme parks. Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties, on the other hand, were planning to reopen in the coming weeks as their COVID-19 numbers fell.
Just 16 of the 58 counties are actually in the red category, with two minor counties in the green. None have yet been assigned to the yellow category, which is the least restrictive.
The potential of theme parks in the red tier will be limited to 15%.
In the purple tier, outdoor activities will be restricted to 100 participants, but in the yellow tier, the cap will be increased to 67 percent.
The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels, and Oakland Athletics have all announced that fans will be in the stands on April 1st. Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants have announced that they will begin their seasons on the road.
In the purple category, teams and event leaders can only sell tickets regionally. Teams and promoters in the other tiers will sell tickets to everyone in California. Concessions will not be permitted in the purple tier, although concessions will be available only at the seats in the other tiers.
Richard Haick of San Pablo, California, has already purchased Oakland A’s ticket vouchers and plans to take his 10-year-old son to a game soon. His son participates in Little League baseball and is ecstatic to be able to watch games.
“It’s good to have some sense of normalcy, even in a reduced capacity,” said Haick, a 45-year-old photographer.
The accelerated reopening is linked to a new vaccination initiative for California’s most vulnerable people. It would be easier for counties to leave the state’s most restrictive tier once 2 million residents in 400 ZIP codes in the most deprived communities have received at least one vaccine dose. Counties will be able to set up even more vaccine clinics until 4 million residents in those neighborhoods have been vaccinated.
All of this puts California in a much better situation than it was a year ago, when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order that limited travel, closed businesses, and put millions of people out of work. California continues to have some of the strictest regulations of any territory, discouraging out-of-state tourists.
The state is banking on inoculating enough of its 40 million inhabitants to prevent widespread COVID-19 infections, in order to reopen completely.
The Department of Public Health reported that just three months after the first injection, more than 10 million doses had been administered.
Just over 3 million people, or around 10% of the population aged 16 and up, have been completely vaccinated.
There are some encouraging signs. This week, the seven-day average rate of positive test results fell to 2.2 percent, which is a new low.
Despite mounting pressure to reopen the economy, health officials said that the improvements in recommendations were gradual and calculated rather than sweeping.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency, said, “We will keep our foot on the brake, not the gas, our eyes on the lane, hands on the wheel, and navigate based on data and science.”