Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm can reopen at limited capacity next month if Orange County’s moves to the Red Tier on the state’s reopening guidelines, following an abrupt announcement by state officials. 

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In a hastily scheduled news conference Friday afternoon, Secretary of the state’s Health and Human Service Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said counties in the Red Tier would be allowed to reopen theme parks at 15% capacity and sports parks at 20% capacity on April 1.

That means Angel Stadium could also reopen.

“This includes all theme parks across california and indeed your county has to be in the red tier to begin operations at 15% at amusement parks,” Ghaly said. “Then as they proceed into orange and yellow those requirements shift some including the capacity.” 

Theme parks will only be open for California residents and won’t be allowed to offer indoor dining. Indoor rides will also have limits based on space and ride length, officials said.

Theme parks have been closed for nearly a year and Anaheim’s Disneyland resort area has been mostly quiet as the city faces a $114 million deficit.

That Red Tier can be reached sooner after another series of abrupt changes Thursday to the reopening metrics.

In order to move to the Red Tier, counties need to have less than seven new cases per 100,000 residents. 

Orange County sits on the cusp, at 7.6 new cases per 100,000 residents.

But that metric is expected to be loosened to 10 cases per 100,000 people after counties across the Golden State vaccinate more people in the most impacted communities.

OC health officer Dr. Clayton Chau expects the county will hit the Red Tier in a couple weeks.

“I am hopefully confident and confidently hopeful that we will officially be in the Red Tier on Wednesday 3/17,” Chau said in a Friday text message following the theme park announcement.

Dee Dee Myers, an aide to Gov. Gavin Newsom, didn’t provide any specific ways parks would stop out of state residents from moving around the system. 

“It is our hope that people will respect the guidelines and it’s our expectation that the parks will work to really encourage people from California to come and others not to come,” Myers said. “Just by reducing mixing and by reducing geography of where people are coming from we think there’s’ a reduction in overall risk.”  

Friday’s abrupt changes to theme park guidance follows a series of sudden updates — from reopening metrics to school reopenings — as Newsom is likely to face a recall election

Meanwhile, hospitalizations continue declining.

As of Friday, 339 people were hospitalized, including 91 in intensive care units, according to the county Health Care Agency.

That’s the lowest hospitalizations have been since mid-November, when new cases began rapidly rising and people were increasingly going to emergency rooms. 

But deaths continue increasing. 

The virus has now killed 4,075 people, including 62 newly reported deaths Friday.

That’s more than seven times the number of people the flu kills in OC on a yearly average. 

Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.

It’s also killed more than heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes do on a yearly average, respectively. 

According to the state death statistics, cancer kills over 4,600 people, heart disease kills over 

2,800, more than 1,400 die from Alzheimer’s disease and strokes kill over 1,300 people.

Orange County has already surpassed its yearly average 20,000 deaths, with 23,883 people dead as of December, according to the latest available state data.

Here’s the latest on the virus numbers across Orange County from county data:
Infections | Hospitalizations & Deaths | City-by-City Data

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

Reporter Nick Gerda contributed to this story.

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