California OKs reopening of ball parks, Disneyland

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FILE - In this March 13, 2020, file photo, visitors take photos at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. California officials will allow people to attend Major League Baseball games and other sporting events, go to Disneyland and watch live performances in limited capacities starting April 1, 2021. The rules announced Friday, March 5, 2021, coincide with baseball's opening day. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California has cleared a path for fans to hit the stands at opening-day baseball games and return to Disneyland nearly a year after coronavirus restrictions shuttered major entertainment spots.

The state on Friday relaxed guidelines for reopening outdoor venues as a fall and winter surge seemed to be ending, with COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths plummeting and vaccination rates rising.

New public health rules would allow live concerts at stadiums and sports arenas to reopen with limited attendance April 1. Amusement parks also will be permitted to reopen in counties that have fallen from the state's purple tier — the most restrictive — to the red tier.

In all cases, park capacities will be limited, and COVID-19 safety rules such as mask-wearing requirements will apply.

The move followed a week of milestones, with California ramping up vaccinations for the poorest neighborhoods, counties reopening more businesses and Gov. Gavin Newsom passing a measure aimed at encouraging schools that have restricted students to online learning to reopen classrooms this month.

“Steady opening is consistent with the data. As cases decline, we want to return to work and school,” said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, clinical professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California. “Outdoor activities in particular have always been low risk. Opening these sites makes sense.”

The reopening can't come too soon for Kenny King Jr., a resident of Pleasant Hill in the San Francisco Bay Area who became an annual Disneyland passholder a decade ago. He typically takes his family to the Southern California park five times a year, but the last visit was just over a year ago for his birthday.

King, 38, said he's excited to return with his 8-year-old daughter, who had just started enjoying rides such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain, and to take his 2-year-old son, who was mesmerized by the lights and sounds when he visited last year.