Confusion is setting in among theme park fans from outside California over an unexpected change to the state’s reopening restrictions.
When the state announced its long-awaited guidelines for reopening theme parks — which had been closed since mid-March 2020 thanks to COVID-19 — attendance was limited to in-state guests throughout all tiers of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. However, a recent addendum to those guidelines appears to have added an exception to that rule, stating, “Fully vaccinated persons from out of state may visit or attend activities or events that are restricted to in-state visitors.”
SeaWorld San Diego became the first to officially interpret this change as applying to theme parks, announcing on its website Tuesday that it would accept out-of-state guests who show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (meaning they are two weeks past the final dose in their series of vaccinations).
SeaWorld referred our requests for comment to the California Attractions and Parks Association, a lobbying group for the state’s theme park industry. A CAPA spokesperson, who wouldn’t allow themselves to be identified in this story, told Theme Park Tribune on Wednesday:
“This addendum now allows fully vaccinated persons from out of state to visit or attend activities or events that were previously restricted to in-state visitors. As vaccinations become more widespread and state guidance evolves, individual parks may update their own responsible reopening plans in accordance with state and local public health regulations.”
The California Department of Public Health confirmed that the addendum includes theme parks in a statement to a multiple media outlets Wednesday.
For the time being, Disneyland is sticking to in-state guests only. In a statement to Mouse Planet, an unnamed Disneyland official said, “Until further notice, only California residents may visit our parks, in line with current state guidelines.”
An unnamed Universal Studios Hollywood spokesperson made a similar statement to the Orange County Register, saying, “While visitation to our theme park is currently available to California residents only, we are assessing next steps to implement changes to previously released guidance and will share updated information when it becomes available.”
Other California theme parks, including Knott’s Berry Farm, Legoland California, and Six Flags Magic Mountain, have yet to reveal whether out-of-state visitors will now be allowed to visit.
State officials have not explained how vaccinations will be verified. While the rule change has been promoted as theme parks now requiring “vaccine passports,” the only proof that most vaccinated Americans can provide are easily forged paper cards.
President Biden has said the federal government will not be issuing a vaccine credential, but his administration has offered to assist private companies interested in developing their own systems.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning the use of vaccine passports by businesses, which would include the likes of Disney World and Universal Orlando. It’s not clear whether the order would be enforceable — after all, Florida theme parks have required face masks since reopening without DeSantis’ approval — but none of the Florida parks have suggested requiring proof of vaccination either.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated after publication with statements from CDPH and Universal Studios Hollywood.
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