On the websites of Cedar Point and Kings Island, the Ohio theme parks both list their 2021 safety measures related to COVID-19.
Both websites state that “we want you to have an awesome day and feel safe when visiting, so we developed an extensive coronavirus reopening plan – new processes and enhanced procedures throughout the park to help reduce the spread of germs.”
But the new, looser face mask standards being introduced for the parks’ upcoming seasons do not match recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Monday, the two Cedar Fair parks announced that face masks would now be only required for guests aged 10 years and older. In their abbreviated 2020 seasons, both parks followed the CDC guidance that masks should be worn by anyone 2 years and up — guidance which remains in place today.
Neither Cedar Point or Kings Island responded to Theme Park Tribune’s questions about the rationale behind this change.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that most children have either mild or no symptoms when infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, there have been rare cases of severe disease and death among that age group, and those kids can still pass the virus onto others, though they do not appear to be major drivers of transmission.
Another change for the parks will not be requiring face masks to be worn outdoors in areas where six feet of physical distancing can be maintained. Face coverings on rides have also been reduced to only a recommendation rather than a requirement. The justification for the change appears to be wording in the CDC guidelines, updated earlier this month, which state, “Masks may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with people who live in your household.”
However, separate guidance released Tuesday by the CDC mentions different standards for masks in certain environments that include theme parks.
The CDC update said people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can “participate in outdoor activities and recreation without a mask, except in certain crowded settings and venues.” CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed confirmed to Theme Park Tribune that theme parks are considered crowded settings by the agency — meaning that even fully vaccinated individuals should wear masks outdoors at theme parks under CDC recommendations.
Cedar Point and Kings Island are not checking for proof of vaccination, so all visitors will be allowed to go unmasked in outdoor areas while distanced regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. As of Tuesday, 39.37 percent of Ohio’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Face mask rules have not been popular among a certain segment of theme park fans during the COVID-19 era. The Orlando Sentinel reported in March that Disney World employees have been spat on, yelled at, and pushed by guests angry over being told to wear masks properly.
Fun Spot America owner John Arie Sr. promoted anti-face mask misinformation on his personal Facebook in 2020. His Orlando park later failed four county inspections on complying with COVID-19 safeguards, including enforcing the local mask mandate.
Only over the past month have parks moved towards changing their mask rules. Disney World is now allowing guests to remove face coverings for photos while staying distant from other visitors. Dollywood and Silver Dollar City also announced they would allow guests to go maskless in outdoor areas while maintaining six feet of distance between parties — but unlike the Cedar Fair parks, masks are still required of all guests aged 2 and up and have to be worn on rides.