Missouri is ranked 45 in vaccination rates and Kansas is ranked 30 as of March 21. Despite the low rates of vaccination, Worlds of Fun still plans to open its gates for business on May 22. Oceans of Fun and its newest attraction, the 486-foot-long mat slide named The Riptide Raceway, will be following suit, and opening on May 29 during the peak of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
This is the first time either park is scheduled to be open to the public since the parks closed on Sept. 7, 2020 due to the pandemic.
“While reopening is something that would’ve had to happen eventually, it seems a bit early for that,” said Darius Stewart, vice president of public relations for Sigma Phi Epsilon at UMKC. “Especially since Worlds of Fun tends to be an extremely popular spot where social distancing is largely going to be unenforceable.”
There are concerns that reopening the park would be unwise in light of current vaccination rates.
“I am far more enthusiastic about opening schools than opening theme parks. If President Biden’s promise is kept, every adult will have access to the vaccine by May, including the young people who work at WOF,” said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, dean of the UMKC School of Medicine. “Is it possible by the time Worlds of Fun says they will open? The answer is no in my mind.”
On its website, the Worlds of Fun states it will enforce social distancing protocols and continuously sanitize high traffic areas in accordance with CDC guidelines to ensure customer safety and to prevent the spread of germs.
However, for the seasonal hourly employees that make up much of the park staff, keeping safe can be a daunting task.
“Employees have continuous close contact with customers at entry turnstiles and at game stations,” said former Worlds of Fun employee and local metro resident Jackie Bell. “The locker rooms, restaurants, and employee cash counting areas are small and poorly ventilated as well. So, I don’t think opening during the pandemic is the best idea for their workers.”
Historically, their staff pool has consisted of local high school and college students looking to make money during their summer break. Since data collection on vaccinations for young adults are still in their early stages, this brings to question how they will get vaccinated or if they are eligible before the season begins.