Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm have the backing of the Orange County Health Agency to reopen, even as the agency admits COVID-19 cases in the region are slowly climbing again. 

Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the agency and county health officer, recommended to county supervisors Tuesday that theme parks be allowed to reopen — once the state moves into the “moderate,” or “Orange” tier of California’s latest reopening plan. Right now, Orange County is a step below, in the “Red” tier.

According to the Orange County Register, the state’s proposed plan would have only allowed theme parks to reopen once their home counties reach the lowest tier of the state’s four-tier system. It also would have limited visitors to those living within 120 miles of the park and limited capacity of 25 percent. After demanding for weeks that guidelines be released, theme parks reversed course last week, objecting to the proposed framework. 

The state obliged and delayed the release of theme park guidelines last Friday. On Tuesday, California Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghlay said there was “no promise of a specific date to release the final guidelines and said the question of when to reopen goes beyond operations inside the park. 

“It’s about the entire community and having dialogue with not just those operators, but others who both have a stake in what happens with this guidance, but also have a responsibility to reduce the risk for so many people from California who might visit a theme park town in the future,” Ghaly said. 

While Disney has been vocally lobbying for reopening — even partially blaming Newsom’s inaction for the company laying off 28,000 workers in its theme park division — Dr. Chau admitted Tuesday that Orange County is seeing COVID-19 case numbers tick up. 

“The positivity rate in Orange County is actually doing very well,” Chau said. “The case rate, that’s where we see an uptick slowly day by day — but that’s happening all over Southern California in large counties.” 

According to Voice of OC, Chau has been keeping outbreaks in the county a secret, but its own analysis has shown an average of six new cases daily per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. To move into the next tier on California’s reopening plan, that rate would have to decrease to four new cases per 100,000 residents. 

Since the pandemic began, Orange County’s official numbers have reported 54,898 confirmed cases and 1,289 deaths. 138 new confirmed cases and two additional deaths were added to those totals Tuesday. 

Figures of COVID-19 cases and numbers are largely absent from stories on reopening from Disney-centric blogs, many of which are openly editorializing in their news coverage to advocate for Disneyland to reopen.

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