Image used with permission from Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Last June, after the end of the distance-learning school year, my mom informed me that my three cousins had purchased Six Flags Magic Mountain tickets reserved for June 19, in hopes that my sister and I would tag along during their visit to the amusement park.
At the time, I was unaware that California had reopened just four days before and that businesses were no longer required to implement masking and distancing guidelines but rather up to their discretion to enforce safety guidelines of their choice.
Having yet to receive the second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine and knowing the nature of reckless visitors, who entirely disregard advice from healthcare professionals, my mom strongly urged me to save the visit for another day.
“It’s too soon and dangerous for you to be visiting such a busy location amid this outbreak, and I heard the Delta variant is so much worse,” my mom said to my sister and I in Korean. “I already have a sense that you’ll come across quite a few maskless visitors, so take care of yourself and act responsibly.”
As we neared our destination, my mom gave my cousins and I another stern reminder.
“Make sure to keep your masks on and consistently sanitize your hands,” she said.
Influenced by my mom’s firm words, my cousins and I began to discuss the controversial anti-masking movements across the country along with the unpleasant realities and risks of visiting a theme park during these dire times. However, our serious conversation soon shifted gears as we eagerly discussed the wide variety of rides to choose from.
Despite my mom’s warnings, I still expected to see the majority of guests maintaining physical distancing and mask recommendations.
However, upon arrival, I stood in shock, carefully observing the large sea of maskless visitors. Not a single party followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s [CDC] six-feet physical distancing recommendations. Throughout the park, I failed to detect any signs, posters or flyers highlighting the importance of COVID-19 safety, and for a moment, these unnerving sights almost fooled me into believing that the pandemic had never happened.
As the lone mask user, aside from my family, I noticed we would get the occasional side glance or a few stares here and there. Standing in bustling lines for rides such as Goliath, among the sea of people, my group and I suddenly became the odd ones out.
But as uncomfortable as the gawking eyes were, I couldn’t help but feel more displeased and troubled by the indifferent attitudes of these guests and the park itself.
As soon as the state lifted mask mandates, these individuals hastily dropped their masks for their own convenience — a momentary benefit that may come with haunting long-term health effects, for, not just themselves, but all those around them. In opposition to the state’s decision to entirely reopen its economy, I believed it was only appropriate for businesses to enforce regulations according to the CDC’s persistent health recommendations, including mandatory masks along with required social distancing and for all individuals to adhere to these safety guidelines.
However, amid the Delta variant (a Los Angeles Times article cited that the novel strain accounted for nearly 50% of all COVID-19 cases reported in Los Angeles County by the week of my visit), Six Flags, located in LA, set no vaccination or social distancing requirements of its own and enforced masks exclusively in enclosed spaces, which ultimately failed as most indoor areas served as dining centers. I was equally appalled by the crowded bathrooms filled with more maskless guests.
Aside from the park’s measly effort to introduce cashless transactions, Six Flags demonstrated ineffective measures to keep its visitors safe.
I was plagued with concern, feeling that the park had prioritized its monetary earnings by taking advantage of the state’s reopening, which was bound to draw large crowds of excited roller coaster enthusiasts after being away from their favorite attraction for a year.
Puzzled by the irony of the park’s emphasis on its roller coaster safety features and guidelines, yet simultaneously ignoring the realities of the ongoing pandemic, I believe the attraction is far from ready when it comes to protecting its guests.
Though Six Flags Magic Mountain knows exactly how to entertain its visitors, safety should be an undoubted top priority.
While I don’t plan on visiting Six Flags — with fears that I may still contract the virus despite now being fully vaccinated — I anticipate another visit as soon as the pandemic settles down. Until then, I look forward to the amusement park’s effort to enforce stricter COVID-friendly safety regulations in addition to recent changes on its website that require masks in all indoor locations including retail buildings, theaters and restaurants. Though little changes seem to be implemented, the park is making progress in the right direction.
Although I arrived home safely by the end of the day, I realized it wasn’t the thrill of a head spinning coaster that made this trip daring, but rather the act of risking my own safety in an environment that in no way guaranteed the well-being of my own health.