California health officials on Tuesday set out strict conditions for the reopening of theme parks such as Disneyland that were forced to shut down because of the coronavirus crisis, with the new guidelines likely extending the closures for several more weeks.
Under the eagerly anticipated protocols, large parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios will be allowed to reopen once coronavirus transmission in the county in which they operate reaches the state’s least restrictive “yellow” tier.
A smaller park will be allowed to reopen once its home county reaches the second least restrictive tier.
Orange County, home to Disneyland in Anaheim, currently is in the “red”, or second tier, while Universal Studios is in the “purple,” the state’s most restrictive tier.
Once allowed to reopen, larger theme parks can only operate at 25 percent capacity and visitors will have to make advance reservations and must wear face coverings except when eating or drinking, according to the guidelines.
Mark Ghaly, the state’s director of health and human services, said it was unclear when the theme parks will be able to reopen given the fluctuating Covid-19 infection rates.
“There is a path forward,” he told reporters. “We don’t know when, but we know how.”
California’s theme parks were forced to shut down in March. Disney in September announced it would cut 28,000 jobs, blaming California officials for refusing to ease restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen.
The company’s Florida theme park reopened in mid-July with boosted health and safety measures and reduced capacity.
Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, lashed out at the protocols outlined Tuesday, saying they would lead to the closure of small family-owned businesses and keep the world’s second-most visited theme park shuttered for the foreseeable future.
“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,” he said in a statement.
“Nevertheless, 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 and state-operated facilities.”
Erin Guerrero, president of the California Attractions and Parks Association, also denounced the measures, saying they will devastate the industry and will essentially “keep theme parks closed indefinitely.”
“This plan prolongs unemployment for tens of thousands of people, hastens bankruptcy for families and small business owners adjacent to parks, and contributes to insolvency for local governments whose budgets rely on parks as an anchor economic driver,” she said in a statement.
Crime gangs threaten COVID-19 vaccine campaigns, Interpol warns
Interpol on Wednesday warned authorities worldwide of the threat from organized crime groups during upcoming Covid-19 vaccination campaigns, including fake vaccines and the theft of supplies.
Distribution of three new coronavirus vaccines is set to begin soon and many people will be desperate to protect themselves as quickly as possible, offering ready targets for criminals.
"As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains," Juergen Stock, head of the global policing agency based in Lyon, France, said in a statement
In historic first, UK to introduce Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week
Britain on Wednesday became the first country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine for general use, announcing a rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech's jab from next week in a historic advance for humanity's fightback against the coronavirus.
"It's the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after the approval by the UK's independent medicines regulator.
But he urged the public to remain cautious on the day that England exited a four-week lockdown and re-imposed regional curbs.
Americans are staying jobless for longer as pandemic stretches on
Eleanore Fernandez lost her job as an executive assistant when the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, and things have only grown worse in the months since.
Her husband, a professional musician, was also put out of work, and she is just weeks away from losing the US government unemployment benefits that have helped sustain Fernandez and her teenage daughter.
"I've never been in a situation where it's like, this hairy," Fernandez told AFP, noting she is "taking more out of my savings account."
"I'm going to run out soon if nothing happens," she said.