As of Nov. 18 at 11:00 p.m, there are 3,628 cases of COVID-19 in Santa Cruz County, including 27 deaths and 2,962 recovered cases.

For a weekend, a Santa Cruz mainstay returned. On Nov. 7, the Boardwalk became the first amusement park in California to reopen rides since lockdowns began in March. But just as quickly as it reopened, the Boardwalk announced it wouldn’t be opening subsequent weekends on Nov. 11.  

Open for two days on Saturday and Sunday, it wasn’t entirely back to normal — the park had to limit their capacity to 500 people, and made two sessions for people to enter the park from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm, and from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Only eight to ten rides were operational, and tickets were only available to Santa Cruz residents. 

“It was great,” said John Kettles, a Santa Cruz resident who visited the park. “We rode the Giant Dipper three times. I was ready to leave if I felt unsafe at any point. […] They cared a lot about trying to do it right, and we ended up staying the whole two hours.”

Despite the precautions, the Boardwalk closed rides as the county returned to the red tier which puts greater restrictions on indoor gatherings, and prevents amusement parks from operating.  

“We anticipated the likelihood Santa Cruz County might move back and forth within tiers, and have prepared to adjust our operations accordingly,” said Boardwalk spokesman Kris Reyes in an L.A Times article.

Boardwalk visitor walks down the aisle for the Giant Dipper rollercoaster during the amusement park’s limited reopening. Photo courtesy of John Kettles.

This past Monday, in an effort to combat rapidly rising cases throughout the state, Gov. Newsom pulled the “emergency brake,” and put 94 percent of the state’s population into the most restrictive purple tier, including Santa Cruz County. According to the state COVID-19 tracking site, California currently has 1.06 million cases and 18,421 deaths.  

The tier system, laid out in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, determines the extent of COVID-19 restrictions for activities based on the rate of positive cases within each county.  When Boardwalk rides reopened, Santa Cruz was in the orange (moderate) tier, which allowed amusement parks to be open with 500 people capacity.  

“Our entire team has been working towards this day,” said Boardwalk spokesperson Kris Reyes in a press release while the county was in the orange tier in November. “We are following all health and safety requirements; masks are required for all guests and employees, and we have robust cleaning protocols in place.”

The county’s move to the red, and eventually purple, tier came after Halloween weekend when new case rates in the county doubled. 

“We support the move,” said Jason Hoppin, the Communications Manager for Santa Cruz County. “We saw a lot of the [new] cases were Halloween-related, and we have two more big holidays coming up.”  

For the Boardwalk, this transition to purple tier means that restaurants can only have outdoor services, and retail stores are limited to 25 percent capacity, with the rides continued to be closed. It won’t be until the county returns to the orange tier that the familiar sound of excited screams emitting from the Giant Dipper can return. As the holidays approach, county officials urge caution as person-to-person household transmission is the primary cause for COVID-19 exposure in the county.