Mickey Mouse or Harry Potter? I choose the Happiest Place on Earth to have more impressive COVID-19 regulations

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Susie Kim

Disneyland visitors remove their masks while in the dining area on July 15. Though tables are spaced out, workers must keep face coverings on at all times. During sophomore Susie Kim’s visit to the park, most guests remained without face coverings following the lift of COVID-19 mandates beginning June 15, which made her feel uncomfortable.

Susie Kim

My middle school’s Class of 2020 was hit with immense disappointment when all our end-of-the-year activities were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Especially since most of us attended Robert C. Fisler school since kindergarten and grew up watching previous eighth-grade classes experience a fun and memorable year, we were eagerly anticipating these last few months of middle school. 

The events our class anticipated included going to Disneyland and watching its fireworks, spending a week at Washington D.C. and celebrating our middle school graduation.

It wasn’t until more than two years later that three of my vaccinated former eighth-grade classmates and I separately planned to treat ourselves and fulfill our overdue graduation gift of going to Disneyland on July 15 and additionally Universal Studios Hollywood on Aug. 8 because one amusement park did not suffice. The last time I visited Disneyland was in sixth grade when our middle school leadership class got the opportunity to take part in a program at the Anaheim theme park.

At first, I was hesitant to go since The Happiest Place on Earth recently removed its 25% park capacity limit beginning June 15, and masks were no longer required outdoors in accordance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans to fully reopen California. 

Even as a generally cautious person, I became even worried for my health upon the dismissal of social distancing requirements, not only at Disneyland, but also at Universal Studios.

It was my first time stepping foot into a crowded environment since most of the time during the pandemic, I had stayed home while my parents went out grocery shopping. I also refrained from hanging out with my friends outdoors — we were comfortable whenever we spent time together in our own homes other than our houses.

Though masks and social distancing mandates were lifted at the amusement parks, I decided to go anyway since I knew it would get more packed as the weeks passed by. 

Overall, Disneyland impressed me more by implementing an easy-to-follow COVID-19 guideline than Universal Studios and allowed me to enjoy my experience to the fullest.

In an effort to limit the number of people at the park, Disneyland requires all visitors to reserve a park as one of the new methods to prevent any positive cases of COVID-19 while at the park since its reopening on April 30. Although face covering mandates and capacity limits no longer exist, the park still requires reservations to enter as of Nov. 9.

The “Parks & Tickets” category on Disneyland’s official website gave me and my friends in July the option to visit one of the two parks, Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park, or both on the same day with Park Hopper tickets, which cost an additional $60. Unwilling to miss the opportunity to see our favorite attractions at both locales, such as Radiator Springs Racers and Space Mountain, my friends and I quickly reserved one-day Park Hopper tickets online, paying a total of $194.

In late July, when my same group of friends and I scrolled through the Universal Studios Hollywood website for admission tickets, I was disappointed to see that it did not list specific regulations or have a system for keeping track of entries like Disneyland. 

For example, the website only asked us to buy a one-day ticket without requiring a specific day to visit and didn’t show the number of visitors who had purchased a ticket for that day. This worried me since I was unable to envision and prepare myself for the number of people visiting on the same day. Though Disney’s website did not specify the number of tickets booked for each day, its online calendar listed entry costs and marked off days that were not available for reservation.

My friends and I were most excited for the new additions at Disneyland, Star Wars: The Rise of Resistance and Web Slingers, which required us to enter a virtual queue to ride. 

Unfortunately, this system of reserving a queue before entering the ride was not available at the Universal Studios park with its new The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash ride. Especially with nearly everyone maskless and outdoors, I felt uncomfortable being in such a tight space waiting in line with so many people.

I froze in disbelief at some people’s rude behavior as I waited in line for the Revenge of the Mummy ride at Universal Studios and made nervous eye contact with my friends. We tried to maintain a six-feet distance with the party in front of us but found it difficult to do so as people crowded in line behind us.

However two months later by Oct. 6, I grinned in approval when I saw the notice on Universal Studios’ official website warning future visitors 12 and older that the park will require proof of vaccination or a negative test 72 hours prior to entering the park beginning Oct. 7. It is mandatory for everyone to wear masks indoors and outdoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Despite lacking this additional precaution, Disneyland mandates wearing masks indoors for all guests ages 2 and older. On Disneyland’s website, certain requirements, such as securing masks with ties or ear loops and covering the nose and mouth, must be met at all times. On the other hand, Universal Studios’ regulations are not as strict, so guests can be caught slacking and maskless at any time.

Now knowing that Universal has since enforced stricter regulations because of the recent spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, I feel more comfortable and at ease stepping foot into the park. I would no longer be the only one with a face covering, and all visitors would be fully vaccinated.

These modified trips to Disneyland and Universal Studios were more than sufficient to compensate for the canceled activities from eighth grade. Though it wasn’t with the whole middle school Class of 2020, going with a few of my closest friends made the visit more memorable and personal. 

Our fully vaccinated status assured and comforted us that we were not susceptible to catching the virus in the midst of all the visitors. 

As more mature sophomores, we no longer had to worry about getting lost at the park, looking for cash to pay for meals or meeting our parents home before it got dark, which allowed me to concentrate my attention on enjoying the rides and spending time with my friends.