ANAHEIM, Calif. — When theme parks across California officially reopen in April, visitors will have to wear a face mask, only eat or drink in designated areas, and must come from in-state.

Theme park operators will need to develop a COVID-19 testing program, queue parties waiting for rides outdoors, and discontinue a ride or attraction if there is a high incidence of visitors losing their face coverings.

What You Need To Know

  • California released official guidance for theme park operators to follow as they begin to reopen

  • Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, and other theme parks in the state have been shut down since the pandemic began

  • With coronavirus cases going down, state officials allowed theme parks to reopen at limited capacity beginning April 1 as long as their home county is in the red tier

  • The new reopening guidance includes developing a weekly COVID-19 testing program, mandatory face masks, and only allowing in-state visitors

These are some of the protocols the state is requiring theme park operators — from Disneyland to California's Great America — to follow as coronavirus cases go down and theme parks begin to welcome visitors after more than a year of being shut down.

"We appreciate the administration's efforts to provide our industry with the guidelines necessary to safely reopen California's amusement parks," said Kris Reyes, California Attractions and Parks Association chair and director of external affairs, of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, in a statement. "California amusement parks prioritize health and safety, and we have worked collaboratively with state leaders and health officials at the state and local levels to develop guidelines that will protect employees and guests."

Reyes said they will continue to communicate with the state about capacity as COVID-19 cases decline.

Earlier this month, the state released an updated version of its Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan, clearing the way for amusement and theme parks across the state to begin reopening at limited capacity on April 1. The Blueprint for a Safer Economy plan is a four-color coded system — purple, red, orange, and yellow — that monitors a county's coronavirus cases and guides what businesses can and can't operate. The purple tier is the most restrictive, while yellow is the least restrictive.

Before the update, Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood, and other large theme parks were not eligible to reopen until their home county reached the yellow tier.

But as COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out, more people are getting vaccinated, and coronavirus cases go down, state health officials modified the guidance.

Theme parks can now reopen starting at 15% when their home county is in the red tier, the second most restrictive level. Capacity can be increased as a theme park's home county continues to graduate through the tiers.

Currently, Orange County, the home of Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, is in the state's red tier. Orange County is expected to reach the orange tier later this week. If that happens, then Disneyland and Knott's can allow 25% visitor capacity.

The state released the official guidance Friday afternoon, nearly a week before allowing theme parks to officially reopen on April 1. So far, only Six Flags theme parks, Magic Mountain in Valencia, and Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo are opening on that date.

Legoland announced it would reopen in mid-April. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will reopen on April 30, and Knott's Berry Farm will reopen in May. Universal Studios Hollywood has yet to announce a reopening date.

In the state's 13-page theme park and amusement park missive released Friday, theme park operators are told they must follow certain guidance and make other considerations as part of a larger effort to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread.

The guidance for theme park operators includes:

  • Consider eliminating single-rider lines
  • Evaluating the speed and other dynamics of each attraction to ensure a visitor's face coverings of various types can be worn safely and securely
  • Consider using a virtual queue system
  • Consider enforcing a small clear bag policy and ask guests to open their own bags for inspection
  • Install hands-free devices including motion sensor lights, contactless payment systems, automatic soap and paper towel dispensers, and timecard systems
  • Provide face coverings for visitor's who may have lost it during a ride
  • Indoor rides must be limited to no more than 15 minutes
  • Develop a weekly COVID-19 testing plan
  • Performers are not required to wear face masks but must stay at least six feet away from all other persons
  • A visitor's party size can only contain three households
  • In-state visitors only

The full guidance can be found on the state's website.

After more than a year of being shut down, Reyes of California Parks and Attraction said they are ready to finally reopen.

"Amusement parks are critical economic drivers in our state and local economies and we provide essential jobs for tens of thousands of Californians," Reyes said. "We are ready to reopen responsibly and we can't wait to welcome back our employees and guests."