Disneyland, Other Calif. Theme Parks May Reopen at Reduced Capacity as Soon as April 1: 'We Can't Wait'

·3 min read

Disneyland

Nearly one year after first shutting its gates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disneyland may finally be welcoming guests back in a matter of weeks.

Beginning April 1, theme parks, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, may be eligible to reopen at a reduced capacity, California health officials said Friday.

Soon after the announcement, the Walt Disney Company said that California residents can expect Disneyland and California Adventure to open very soon.

"We are encouraged that theme parks now have a path toward reopening this spring, getting thousands of people back to work and greatly helping neighborhood businesses and our entire community," Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock said in a statement. "With responsible Disney safety protocols already implemented around the world, we can't wait to welcome out guests back and look forward to sharing an opening date soon."

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A Disneyland spokesperson did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

In order to open, the parks' respective counties will have to meet specific COVID-19 metrics related to positive case counts under the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy guidelines.

Once the county has reached the red tier — meaning it is reporting 4 to 7 daily new COVID cases per 100,000 residents or 5 to 8 percent positivity rate — the parks will be able to open their doors at 15 percent capacity.

As case rates continue to drop, the permitted theme park capacity rises up to 35 percent. There is no guidance for reopening at a higher capacity at this time. For now, the state says that "attendance will be limited to in-state visitors."

As of Friday, Orange County — where Disneyland and California Adventure are located — is still in the state's most restrictive tier and does not meet the requirements for the parks to reopen yet.

However, the county is poised to meet those metrics in the coming weeks, according to local outlets including ABC 7.

David McNew/Getty Disneyland Resort sign

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While Walt Disney World in Orlando has been open at a limited capacity with mask mandates and distancing restrictions since July, Disney's original theme park in Anaheim, California, has been subject to stricter state guidelines, making for a rocky and uncertain road to reopening.

Initial plans to welcome guests back were set over the summer, but those were quickly dashed when restrictions continued due to a rise in coronavirus cases in the region.

In November, Disneyland was able to open a portion of its California Adventure park for in-person shopping and dining only, but had to close in-person dinning just weeks later as cases again were rising in the L.A. area.

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In January, the resort announced it would be ending its annual pass program.

In an email sent to passholders, Potrock said that while it is "disappointing" that the program is ending, "we are also very excited about what's ahead."

Recently, Disneyland announced a new approach with "A Touch of Disney," a ticketed, limited-capacity food festival at Disney's California Adventure that will begin on March 18.