Is it safe to go to water parks that have reopened?

is it safe water park coronavirus
Photo via Michael Au/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
  • This story is regularly updated for relevance. Last updated: Aug. 3, 2021

Water parks in Texas reopened May 29, 2020 with new occupancy limits and rules. Now that summer of 2021 is coming again, plenty of indoor water parks remain open for business despite the pandemic.

But not everybody is playing by the rules. On Aug. 8, 2020, it was reported that a water park in Roseville, California had opened despite the state’s closure order. The park could face a $500-per-day fine (though KCRA noted that, because a daily pass costs $45, the park could make that money back by selling just 12 tickets).

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) shut down water parks at the end of July, but one termed itself a swimming pool and remained open. Later in 2020, Whitmer’s restrictions had shut down indoor water parks (as well as theaters and bowling alleys), and even into February, the water parks in Michigan still had to be closed.

After Arizona shut down water parks (along with bars, gyms, and movie theaters) and implemented a mask mandate, daily coronavirus cases dropped by 75%. In March 2021, the state had planned to reopen water parks.

In other encouraging news, inspectors investigated the water park at Orlando’s SeaWorld in September and found it to be in compliance with county mandates about COVID-19 (though that didn’t stop SeaWorld from posting a $79 million loss in 2020’s third quarter).

Disney opened Blizzard Beach in Orlando in March 2021 (though Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park remains closed and looks awfully abandoned). Meanwhile, Volcano Bay in Universal Orlando opened in June 2020 (here was one person’s experience at the park).

Here’s a list of other amusement parks that are slated to reopen again in 2021. By April 2021, Florida theme and water parks thought they could perhaps get back to normal (though by early August, Florida had become the epicenter of the latest spread of COVID, marking more hospitalizations than even before vaccines were available).

Six Flags Entertainment lost massive amounts of money as well because of water park (and another amusement park) closures. As noted by Forbes, its second quarter and third quarter revenues in 2020 declined by 96% ad 80% year over year. But in February, Six Flags announced all 26 of their amusement parks and water parks would open for the 2021 season.

One of the biggest indoor water parks in the world, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions in Round Rock, Texas, had its grand opening on Nov. 12. As of May 2021, masks are not mandated.

The CDC advises that chlorine and bromine commonly used in public swimming pools should be enough to “inactivate” the coronavirus in water, which makes swimming in them relatively safe. It’s still the aspect of person-to-person spread which has people concerned, as the virus spreads through respiratory droplets. Social distancing at places like public pools and water parks is still advised

In response to concerns about reopening amid coronavirus, the World Waterpark Association created an “Aquatic Facility & Waterpark Reopening Considerations document” to guide facilities on how and when to reopen. The guide urges facilities and waterparks to consider the level of risk to both staff and guests, who may potentially expose each other to the coronavirus. Lifeguard training in particular should be evaluated, per the guide, with extra precaution taken to minimize the possible transmission of coronavirus. 

The World Waterpark Association advises both the screening of employees and guests to ensure no one with COVID-19 symptoms enters a facility. CDC recommendations include sticking to parks that are nearby and avoiding organized activities or sports, which may occur at public pools or water parks. The CDC also said lifeguards should not be held responsible for making sure people following coronavirus regulations.

Still, water parks aren’t completely safe from the coronavirus. On Aug. 1, Noah’s Ark Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin announced it was closing the park indefinitely after two employees tested positive.

After you get the vaccine, is it safe to …

Sources: CBS Austin, CDC, World Waterpark Association

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