Ohio governor sets reopening date for amusement parks, casinos after lawsuit

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Ohio’s amusement parks and casinos, including Kings Island, Coney Island and Jack Casino, can reopen as soon as June 19, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.

The news comes after other theme parks and casinos across the country have begun to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Universal Orlando became the first of Orlando’s major theme park resorts to reopen, allowing annual pass-holders to return to its three parks Wednesday and Thursday. Walt Disney World plans to welcome back visitors to its parks in July, and Las Vegas casinos reopened Thursday.

Kings Island and Cedar Point, both owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, filed lawsuits against DeWine’s administration on Thursday, saying orders were imposing criminal penalties on their business.

But DeWine insists that the lawsuits – and a move from Ohio lawmakers to speed up opening dates for amusement parks and water parks – played no role in his decision.

“They should have saved their money (spent) on lawyers,” DeWine said. “I told them a week ago that we would have an answer today, and that’s what we did.”

Kings Island hasn’t yet set a date to reopen.

“The reopening of our parks is crucial to the economic viability of Erie County and Warren County,” Cedar Fair Entertainment Company CEO Richard Zimmerman said in a statement. “We look forward to getting back to business and hope that other states will follow Ohio’s lead in reopening parks around the country,”

Theme parks might look much different when they ultimately open. Temperature checks could be required of guests. More frequent cleaning and social distancing will be imposed where possible. Kings Island will announce more details closer to opening day.

In addition to amusement parks and water parks, casinos and racinos can reopen as soon as June 19. But there will be restrictions: poker, coat check, valet services, concerts and banquets won’t be available yet.

The maximum capacity will be limited to no more than 50% of fire code, most employees will wear face coverings and special hours will be set aside for at-risk populations, such as older adults.

DeWine knows that some Ohioans, including several fellow Republicans, would rather he open all businesses in the state without any restrictions.

“To do that in the midst of this pandemic makes absolutely no sense,” DeWine said. “It would not be the right thing to do. Frankly, to do that would be an abandonment of the duty I have as your governor.”

Meanwhile, Ohio isn’t testing as many residents as it planned to, and some lawmakers have proposed a way to limit contact tracing, which allows local health officials to track who has been infected.

Requiring written consent before conducting contact tracing would be “a mistake,” DeWine said. “This is a solution without a problem.”

As of Friday afternoon, 37,758 Ohioans had been infected with COVID-19 at one point, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Of those, 2,355 people had died and 6,385 had been hospitalized.

In Ohio, 443,533 people had been tested for the respiratory virus, an increase of more than 8,900 reported from the previous day.

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