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Are amusement parks safe now? What you should know to lower Covid-19 risk

If you're wondering whether an amusement park is a safe place to have fun after more than a year of pandemic struggles, know that the answer isn't black-and-...

Posted: Apr 15, 2021 11:36 AM
Updated: Apr 15, 2021 11:37 AM

If you're wondering whether an amusement park is a safe place to have fun after more than a year of pandemic struggles, know that the answer isn't black-and-white.

Coronavirus spreads through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying the virus, virus accumulated in or flowing through the air or surfaces contaminated with the virus. Because of that, the risk levels of amusement parks depend on the safety modifications they take to reduce Covid-19 risk, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance for traveling amusement parks and carnivals.

That can apply to permanent amusement parks, too, said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

"If the amusement park is entirely outdoors and you're going at a time when it's not a bunch of people packed into a very small space, if you can keep some pretty good physical distancing, and if masks are required, I would feel pretty good about going," Wen said. "That changes if any of those factors are not there.

"If it's outdoors, there's going to be very good air circulation. We now know that surfaces are not the major issue."

Before you go to an amusement park

By calling or looking online, check whether the park has been complying with CDC guidelines for traveling amusement parks -- or with similar precautions regarding cleaning frequently touched surfaces as much as possible, physical distancing and consistent mask wearing.

If you don't live in the same state or country as the amusement park, call the park or check its website to know whether the park is allowing out-of-state visitors. You may need to make reservations since some parks may be limiting capacity. Look for advance ticketing options so that you and your group can enter the park using contactless check-in.

Also, look at online review forums and navigation apps to see what the experiences of recent guests have been, Wen suggested. "Does it seem like masking is enforced? Also, what are the most crowded times, and what does it look like when it's crowded? Are you able to maintain physical distancing? If not, you may want to reconsider the trip."

If you have children, set their expectations for what the trip may be like.

"Discuss with the family, in advance, about what to do, including if you show up and it's too crowded and you may need to leave," Wen said. "Kids may otherwise be very disappointed if that were to occur."

While you're at the park

While you're there, you'll need hand sanitizer to use before and after you touch things -- such as ATMs or handrails -- or eat.

"We don't know how frequently they're wiping down those rides," so bring sanitizing wipes as well, said Dr. Ada Stewart, a family physician with Cooperative Health in Columbia, South Carolina, and the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

When you're on rides, "a lot of times you're screaming," said Regina Davis Moss, the associate executive director of health policy and practice at the American Public Health Association. "These are also potential opportunities for droplet spread." Avoid rides that don't allow for enough space between groups from different households -- and remember to keep your mask on at all times.

Carry more than one mask in case one gets wet, which can make it less effective and complicate breathing. Bringing your own food and eating at least 6 feet away from people who don't live in your household -- or finding a restaurant with outdoor seating -- is safest. Many businesses have closed public water fountains, so you may need to bring along a water bottle as well.

Avoid touching shared items, such as gaming equipment, if you haven't seen park staff clean it between guests. If you do play arcade games, make sure that only your group is at the booth. Pay attention to any signs or markings that encourage you to physically distance and stay aware of your surroundings.

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