Disney World reopened with restrictions on July 11, and while many other amusement parks are following suit throughout the US, things are far from back to normal. For families, a day spent at an amusement park is certainly tempting, however, parents should know that doing so is still considered a moderate- to high-risk activity by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If your family is considering going to an amusement park, it's best to take precautions while visiting amid COVID-19. To get a better understanding of what parents should take into account, we asked Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, for his best tips. Find his recommendations ahead.
1. Don't forget to social distance at the amusement park.
Of course, one of the key elements of staying safe while out and about in public is staying six feet away from other guests. However, according to Dr. Gonsenhauser, doing this effectively could be especially hard in an amusement-park setting.
"Social distancing can be challenging at an amusement park," he told POPSUGAR. "I haven't specifically seen what various parks are doing as far as their social-distancing approach goes, but I would venture to guess that the vast majority of them have at least attempted to accommodate social distancing when it comes to the lines. The information that the World Health Organization released [on July 9] opens the door for interpretation of potential airborne spread, and that really changes the nature of transmission dramatically."
In parks like Disney World and Six Flags, visitors are being asked to use markers set up on the ground to ensure they stay six feet away from other guests in line. Additionally, elements like door handles and queue railings are being routinely wiped down.
2. Always wear a mask while at the amusement park.
Having family members over the age of 2 wear masks in amusement parks is incredibly important given the routine amount of screaming and talking. "It calls to question how effective [wearing a mask and social distancing] will be, particularly in places where the communication is beyond the normal quiet conversation," he said. "There's more yelling, screaming, and loud laughter - basically all the things that amusement parks are designed to elicit. Those masks might be a little bit less effective, and people really need to be aware that there is likely an elevated risk."
3. Practice good hand hygiene at amusement parks.
According to the CDC, handwashing is the name of the game amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and it should certainly be emphasized even more so at amusement parks. "The use of facial coverings [or] face masks and aggressive hand hygiene are still the central tenants of your defense," Dr. Gonsenhauser said. "Wiping things you touch down in conjunction with engaging in aggressive hand hygiene practices is a good start."
Parents should also research whether the amusement park they're visiting is either giving out free sanitizer or selling it at the gift shop. If it's not, families should consider bringing their own supply.
4. Stay away from concessions, games, and indoor activities at amusement parks.
Just because some indoor attractions might be open doesn't mean you should necessarily take part in them. "The huge benefit to amusement parks is that the majority of what you do is outdoors, and that's going to help families significantly," Dr. Gonsenhauser said. "If I were to bring my family to an amusement park, I would definitely be avoiding any of the indoor attractions, and I would be sticking solely to outdoor activities."
A good rule of thumb? If it's not fully outdoors, steer clear of the activity in question. "Wherever possible, limit your interactions with the concession stands or the additional games with prizes," he cautioned. "I wouldn't be doing the ticketed games or going in the gift shop."
5. Don't bring additional people to the amusement park.
Because little ones under the age of 2 aren't advised to wear masks, it's best to limit visitors to those older guests who are going to make the most of the attractions. According to Dr. Gonsenhauser, there's no sense in putting family members at risk if they can't fully participate.
"Amusement parks have been a longtime activity that's based on the family going together as a whole," he said. "Sometimes it would include babies, toddlers, and grandparents who just wanted to spend the time together. If your goal is to simply spend time together as a family and it's not the rides and attractions that you're going for, I think that you can find better, safer activities to have that family time. I would save the amusement park for the kids and adults who want to spend time at the attractions and limit the attendees to only those people."