There have been no reports of COVID-19 outbreaks at the 20 largest amusement parks in the United States as California theme parks continue to await reopening guidelines from the state after six months of coronavirus closures.

No COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported at Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Six Flags, Legoland and Cedar Fair parks in Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan, according to state health agencies and theme park officials.

California theme parks closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some California parks — such as Knott’s Berry Farm, SeaWorld San Diego and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom — have partially reopened for limited capacity events without rides. Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood have reopened their adjacent outdoor shopping malls while keeping their theme parks closed. Six Flags Magic Mountain remains closed indefinitely while California’s Great America has canceled plans to reopen for the rest of 2020.

SEE ALSO: Newsom: California ‘getting closer’ on how and when to reopen Disneyland and other theme parks

California theme parks represent about one-third of the 20 largest theme parks in the U.S.

Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, SeaWorld San Diego and Six Flags Magic Mountain attracted a combined 49 million visitors in 2019, according to Themed Entertainment Association/AECOM. The top 20 theme parks in North America attracted 157 million visitors in 2019, according to TEA/AECOM.

U.S. theme parks have implemented basic guidelines that are now familiar as part of the “new normal” in the COVID-19 era: Mandatory masks, social distancing, increased sanitization, contactless payments, reduced attraction capacity and employee training.

SEE ALSO: Disney theme parks face another ‘lost year’ in 2021, analysts forecast

Major theme parks in the U.S. reopened with reduced capacity in Florida and Texas in June, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey in July and Virginia in August.

Florida is home to eight of the 11 most-attended theme parks in the U.S. — attracting a combined 87 million visitors in 2019, according to TEA/AECOM.

Florida’s Orange County Department of Health officer Dr. Raul Piro said in late August that Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando haven’t had any COVID-19 outbreaks, according to WKMG-TV. The primarily outdoor nature of Orlando’s theme parks likely makes it harder for coronavirus to be transmitted, according to Piro.

Florida Health spokesperson Kevin Watler said there have been no COVID-19 clusters associated with Busch Gardens Tampa, which is located in nearby Hillsborough County.

A COVID-19 outbreak or cluster is defined as two or more people with coronavirus who are linked to a potentially extensive transmission within a setting or organization, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SEE ALSO: Disneyland cancels Candlelight Ceremony as coronavirus threatens Christmas events

Disney

The Walt Disney World resort’s theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios — claim four of the top five spots on the TEA/AECOM attendance leaderboard. The number two spot belongs to Disneyland.

Walt Disney World resort’s data on COVID-19 outbreaks is consistent with what Florida officials have shared, according to Disney officials.

Universal

Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure both rank in the top 10 in terms of U.S. theme park attendance.

“We know of no ‘outbreak’ and would refer you to Orange County health officials for specifics,” Universal Orlando spokesperson Tom Schroder said via email.

SEE ALSO: Disney, Universal and SeaWorld say California theme parks ready to reopen

SeaWorld

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks in California, Florida, Texas and Virginia.

SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld San Diego are among the 20 most-attended theme parks in the U.S. Virginia’s Busch Gardens Williamsburg was the 20th most-attended theme park in North America as recently as 2015, getting knocked off the leaderboard by Six Flags Great America.

SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks in the U.S. have not been notified of any COVID-19 outbreaks, according to SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment officials.

SEE ALSO: Legoland to Gov. Newsom: Let California theme parks reopen

Legoland

Legoland theme parks have reopened in Florida, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

“We’ve opened all our other Legoland resorts all around the world with no reported outbreaks,” Legoland California president Kurt Stocks said.

Merlin Entertainments has had millions of guests enter its reopened Legoland theme parks and more than 100 themed entertainment attractions around the world without any COVID-19 incidents or outbreaks, according to company officials.

Legoland California has partially reopened the Miniland U.S.A. section of the park to annual passholders, Legoland Hotel guests and Big Shop shoppers.

SEE ALSO: How California theme parks could reopen under state’s 4-tier plan

Six Flags

Six Flags has reopened parks in Texas, New Jersey, Missouri, Georgia, Maryland and Oklahoma. Of those, only New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure ranks among the Top 20 U.S. theme parks.

“The safety of our guests and team members continues to be our highest priority,” according to Six Flags officials. “The extensive safety and hygiene measures we have in place were developed with epidemiologist consultants and meet or exceed all federal, state, and local guidelines. We want our guests and team members to feel confident about their health and safety while in our parks.”

There have been no outbreaks at reopened Six Flags amusement parks in Texas, New Jersey and California, according to health officials.

Six Flags Great America outside Chicago is the biggest theme park in Illinois and the 20th most-attended park in the U.S., according to TEA/AECOM. Great America’s water park has reopened while its theme park remains closed.

“At this time, we have no reports of outbreaks associated with theme parks in Illinois,” Illinois public health department spokesperson Melaney Arnold said via email.

New Jersey is home to Six Flags Great Adventure, Nickelodeon Universe and several Jersey Shore oceanfront amusement parks.

“The department is not aware of any outbreaks associated with any New Jersey theme parks,” New Jersey Department of Health spokesperson Janelle Fleming said via email.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo has partially reopened under zoo guidelines without rides. Valencia’s Magic Mountain — Six Flags’ most-attended park — remains closed.

Six Flags announced that its Darien Lake and Great Escape theme parks in New York would not be opening in 2020 due to the pandemic.

SEE ALSO: Disneyland delays Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway to 2023 as vertical construction begins

Cedar Fair

Cedar Fair has reopened Ohio’s Cedar Point and Kings Island, Pennsylvania’s Dorney Park, and Missouri’s Worlds of Fun theme parks.

“Prior to reopening our parks, Cedar Fair implemented robust health and safety protocols for our guests and associates, informed by our in-house, industry and local government experts along with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control,” according to Cedar Fair officials. “We credit these protocols for the good news that we have effectively averted to date any COVID-19 outbreaks that link back to any of our parks.”

Erie County Department of Health Commissioner Peter Schade confirmed that Cedar Point has had no outbreaks tied to the theme park.

“They have done an excellent job with precautions,” Schade said via email.

Cedar Fair’s most-attended park — Knott’s Berry Farm — has partially reopened for beer and food events without rides. The amusement park chain’s second-biggest property — Canada’s Wonderland in Ontario — is the only theme park in the TEA/AECOM North American Top 20 not in the United States. Canada’s Wonderland remains closed.

Cedar Fair announced that California’s Great America, North Carolina’s Carowinds, Virginia’s Kings Dominion, Minnesota’s Valleyfair and Michigan’s Adventure would not be opening in 2020 due to the pandemic.

SEE ALSO: U.S. theme parks lose $18 billion, cut 125,000 jobs amid pandemic, industry association says

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is in the heart of America’s Roller Coaster Belt and home to Hersheypark along with a host of smaller parks such as Dorney Park, Kennywood, Idlewild and Knoebels. But like many states, Pennsylvania does not provide details on COVID-19 outbreaks at individual theme parks.

“We cannot comment on specific cases or clusters of cases,” Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesperson Maggi Mumma said via email.

Pennsylvania has had COVID-19 outbreaks tied to nursing homes, church services and high school cheerleader squads.

Hersheypark is the 19th largest park in the U.S. and the only Pennsylvania park in the Top 20.

“Since we have reopened, we have not been notified, directly or indirectly, of any COVID-19 outbreaks related to a guest’s visit to Hersheypark,” according to Hersheypark spokesperson Garrett Gallia.

SEE ALSO: Only 19% feel comfortable going to a theme park, survey finds

Virginia

Virginia allowed theme parks to initially reopen with a maximum of 1,000 visitors. Kings Dominion called the state’s restrictions economically unsustainable and decided against reopening in 2020. Busch Gardens Williamsburg reopened in early August with a series of limited-capacity events.

“There have been zero outbreaks reported in amusement parks in Virginia,” Virginia Department of Health spokesperson Erin Beard said via email.

Texas

Texas is home to several major theme parks that rank just outside the Top 20 in the U.S. — including Six Flags Over Texas, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld San Antonio.

Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 have reported visiting Texas theme parks, but the Texas Department of State Health Services can’t directly connect any of their illnesses to the theme park visits, according to state health officials.

“We are not aware of any outbreaks related to theme parks,” Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson Lara Anton said via email.

SEE ALSO: Are California theme parks too risky to reopen?

California

Tracking COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S. can be complicated because reporting standards vary by state and sometimes even by county within a state.

In California, the state’s public health department collects data on COVID-19 cases from local jurisdictions, but defers to local county agencies for more precise data on investigations into any outbreaks.

California theme parks like Discovery Kingdom, Knott’s and SeaWorld have been allowed to partially return from extended coronavirus closures for limited-time, reduced-capacity events with no rides or coasters.

Discovery Kingdom reopened the Marine World Experience in early July.

In Solano County, where Discovery Kingdom is located, the primary way COVID-19 is transmitted is during social gatherings, according to Solano County Public Health spokesperson Jayleen Richards.

“We haven’t had any outbreaks related to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom,” Richards said via email.

Knott’s plans to follow up the Taste of Calico event that began in July and the subsequent Taste of Knott’s with the upcoming Taste of Fall-O-Ween.

“We have not associated any outbreaks tied to Knott’s Berry Farm,” Orange County Health Care Agency spokesperson Jessica Good said via email.

SeaWorld San Diego returned in late August with the Zoo Days: Bayside BBQ & Brews event.

San Diego health officials would not comment on whether there have been any outbreaks at SeaWorld during the three weekends while the marine park has been partially reopened.

“We do not disclose the location of outbreaks unless there is an active threat to public health and an action that the public should take,” San Diego Health & Human Services Agency spokesperson Sarah Sweeney said via email.

SeaWorld San Diego has not been notified of any COVID-19 outbreaks while the park has been operating under zoo guidelines, according to SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment officials.

Please let us know if you are an employee or visitor who has been notified of a COVID-19 outbreak of two or more people at a U.S. theme park by using the email address at the top of this story or the comment section below.


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