CA lawmakers urge Newsom to issue guidelines to allow theme parks to reopen

FILE PHOTO: Six Flags Magic Mountain. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

More than a dozen state legislators are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue COVID-19 safety guidelines that would allow theme parks like Six Flags Magic Mountain to reopen. 

The bipartisan letter, signed by 19 senators and Assembly members, reads that “the time is now to move forward with theme park reopenings,” citing that the administration’s data and science do not point to those in this sector as sources of transmission. 

“Logic would suggest that since theme parks are controlled venues operating predominantly outdoors, that they too could reopen with similar health and safety protocols,” according to the letter, which was co-authored by Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita. “Meanwhile, theme parks throughout the country and internationally have successfully reopened and one glance at the news makes it obvious that outbreaks simply aren’t being traced back to these theme parks.”  

The lawmakers cite the state’s four-tiered blueprint, which breaks down stages for when and how several sectors can reopen per county but does not include theme parks, and requested that the state add theme parks to the blueprint. 

“Theme parks, however, have not been addressed in this blueprint — they have no path forward, no guidance documents for the state’s expectations related to reopening, and no sense of timing to share with their anxious employees and guests,” according to the letter. “Counties are already beginning to move through tiers, and yet none know when this large sector within their communities will be allowed to reopen.”

Valencia’s Six Flags Magic Mountain is among the theme parks across the state that have emphasized their game plans are in place for a safe reopening ahead of state and local government green lights. In a statement Thursday, spokeswoman Sue Carpenter said: 

“At Six Flags, the safety of our guests and employees has always and continues to be our top priority. As businesses and entertainment venues reopen around the country, we are doing so with the approval of state and local governments and with an extensive plan in place, in accordance with (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines, to protect both our guests and employees. This plan includes social distancing, temperature screenings, increased sanitization throughout our parks, informational signage, and new training and PPE supplies for employees. The way we operate our parks has been completely redesigned to protect guests and team members.”

On Wednesday, Smith said closures have impacted local economies as they each employ hundreds of people, such as with Six Flags in her 38th Assembly District. 

“They’re a big employer here in the district,” she said. The Valencia-based theme park is considered the Santa Clarita Valley’s largest employer, with an estimated 3,200 workers, according to the SCV Economic Development Corp. 

The local theme park “does not have a reopening date,” according to Carpenter, who confirmed it does not have plans for modified Halloween activities such as a drive-thru experience. 

Smith said “the more guidance, the more clarity, especially as it pertains to those in the arts and entertainment sector,” is needed. 

In releasing guidelines, the state is not quite there yet “but we’re getting very close,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said Tuesday during a media briefing. 

“We’re working hard to get that out in a responsible way as soon as possible, so planning can be done by both the counties that are home to the theme parks, as well as the operators of those theme parks,” he said. “We know that a number of Californians are eager and wondering when that is coming, and we’re working with those industries to put out something that’s thoughtful, allows us to maintain the rest of our framework in a strong way, and really follows those principles of slow and stringent to ensure those large activities are done responsibly.” 

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