Riding Space Mountain, flying Dumbo the Flying Elephant, or traveling to the Haunted Mansion will be a very different experience for Disneyland guests in the age of the coronavirus.
A detailed set of state guidelines provides California theme parks with a roadmap for reopening rides and attractions after more than a year of coronavirus closures.
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The COVID-19 health and safety mandates in the California guidelines should be familiar to the state’s major theme park operators. Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, Six Flags, Legoland and Cedar Fair have already reopened theme parks in the United States where similar COVID-19 rides and rides protocols have been implemented.
The 20-page COVID-19 amusement park guidelines issued in October by the California Department of Public Health establish new health and safety rules for roller coasters, thrill rides and other theme park attractions in the state. State officials have promised to issue a revised set of guidelines before the theme parks begin to reopen on April 1. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will return on April 30.
The theme park guidelines cover a wide range of new rules for rides and attractions ranging from row spacing and seating patterns to security checks and cleaning protocols.
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Visitors to California theme parks will be required to wear face masks and maintain a 6-foot social distance in ride and attraction queues. Employees will monitor and enforce the wearing of masks and social distancing in queues. The Disneyland Guest Experience Team has been enforcing the mask wear rules at Downtown Disney since the open-air mall reopened in July.
All attraction queues must be outdoors in accordance with state guidelines. No queues will be allowed indoors. Parks should install Plexiglass dividers at the curves of the queues to maintain social distancing between visitors.
All four Walt Disney World theme parks in Florida have added Plexiglass dividers in attraction queues and vehicles to maintain social distancing between riders. Disneyland has installed more than 2,000 Plexiglas barriers in the visitor and employee areas in preparation for the reopening.
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Theme parks are encouraged to consider using a mobile app-based virtual ride queue system, in accordance with state guidelines. Disneyland used a virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance before the park closed in March 2020. Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida has updated the virtual queue system for Rise of the Resistance in the east coast version of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Visitors must wear face masks at all rides and attractions per California guidelines. Parks will have to shut down any attractions that cause passenger masks to fly off due to speed or other dynamics. Parks will be required to provide new masks to riders who lose face coverage on a ride.
Under the guidelines, seating at rides and attractions will be per household with passengers from different households seated at least six feet apart. Seating patterns should be adjusted to maintain social distancing, whether getting into any other vehicle or row.
At Florida’s Magic Kingdom, lines have been vacated on It’s a Small World ships, while all other vehicles on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin have been vacated to maintain social distancing.
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Pre-existing rides and attractions safety protocols will need to be kept under the new California guidelines, with only an additional focus on COVID-19 health and safety. Parks are encouraged to check passenger height requirements from a safe distance and avoid contact with visitors. Employees should sanitize their hands after reviewing walkway restrictions or security gates.
High-contact surfaces on attractions such as handrails, armrests, lap bars, seat belts, and over-the-shoulder restraints should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. The same goes for travel controls, buttons, switches, and dispatch panels that employees frequently touch. Six Flags Clean kits with backpack sanitizer tanks and hand sprayers sanitize rides approximately every 30 minutes.