COVID -19 Considerations for Traveling Amusement Parks and Carnivals

As traveling amusement park and carnival operations, such as those at county and state fairs or traveling carnivals, resume in some areas of the United States, CDC offers the following considerations for ways in which operators of these venues can protect staff, guests, and communities from the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). These considerations are focused primarily on traveling amusement park and carnival midways that include rides, games, interactive exhibits, and concessions stands.

Traveling amusement park and carnival operators can determine, in collaboration with federal, state, local, territorial, or tribal health officials, whether and how to apply these suggestions, making adjustments to meet the needs and circumstances of the local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community. These considerations are meant to support—not replace—any federal, state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which businesses must comply.

Guiding Principles to Keep in Mind

  • The more and longer people interact, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with and spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • The higher the level of community transmission at traveling amusement parks and carnivals, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading during park operations.
  • The size of an event or gathering should be determined based on state, local, territorial or tribal safety laws and regulations.
Moderate Risk Higher Risk Highest Risk
Risk levels of COVID-19 spread at traveling amusement parks and carnivals
Park operations are open with modifications to allow for social distancing of at least 6 feet between individuals or household groups. Park operations are open with partial modifications to allow for social distancing in some areas. Park operations are open at full capacity with no modifications to allow for social distancing.
All staff and guests wear masks. Some staff and/or guests wear masks. No masks are worn.
Guests seat themselves on rides without assistance, if able, and seating arrangements are modified to allow for social distancing between riders. Staff members assist riders with seating and seating arrangements are modified to allow for social distancing between riders. Staff members assist riders with seating and rides are not modified to allow for social distancing.
Games are limited to self-service machines that can be played by one person at a time. Games that require a host and that allow multiple players at the same time are offered, but the number of players is limited to allow 6-foot spacing between individuals. Games that require a host and that allow multiple players at the same time are offered, without a limitation on the number of players.
Cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces between uses. Replace shared objects between uses. If replacement is not possible, clean and disinfect shared objects between uses. Cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and shared objects more than once per day, but less frequently than between each use. Cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and shared objects once per day.

Know How the Virus Spreads

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads easily between people who are in close contact, through respiratory droplets released when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly could be inhaled into their lungs. Infected people can spread the virus whether or not they have symptoms. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads. The virus can also spread from people to certain animals in some situations. Therefore, personal prevention practices (such as handwashing, staying home when sick, maintaining 6 feet of distance, and wearing a mask) and  prevention practices such as cleaning and disinfection are important principles to slow the spread of the virus.

Promoting Behaviors that Reduce Spread

Traveling amusement park operators may consider implementing strategies to encourage behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19 among staff and guests.

  • Staying Home when Appropriate
    • Educate staff and guests about when they should stay home.
      • Encourage employees and guests to stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19.
      • Encourage employees and guests to stay home and monitor their health if they have had close contact with a person who has had symptoms of COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
      • Consult CDC criteria to inform policies on when staff can return to work and when guests can return to the park if they had symptoms of COVID-19, or tested positive for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19.
    • Develop policies that encourage sick staff to stay at home without fear of being punished or losing their jobs, and ensure staff are aware of these policies. Educate staff when they can return to work.
  • Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette
    • Recommend and reinforce frequent staff and guest hand hygiene behaviors (e.g., between physical interactions, before and after games or rides, before eating, after using the restroom, before and after being in animal interaction areas, or after touching frequently touched surfaces). Encourage handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, provide hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
    • Remind staff and guests to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Encourage staff and guests to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Used tissues should be thrown in the trash and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, provide hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  •  Masks
    • Require the use of masks among staff, as feasible. Encourage guests to bring and use masks at the park. Masks are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult.
    • Provide staff and guests with information on proper use, removal and washing of masks.
      • Note: Masks should not be placed on:
        • Babies and children younger than 2 years old
        • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
        • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
    • Masks are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected with COVID-19 but does not have symptoms. Masks are not meant to be a substitute for personal protective equipment such as surgical masks, respirators, or medical personal protective equipment.
  • Adequate Supplies
    • Ensure you have accessible sinks and enough supplies for people to clean their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes. Supplies should be accessible and include soap and water, a way to dry hands (e.g., paper towels, hand dryer), tissues, no-touch/foot pedal trash cans (preferably covered), masks (as feasible), and hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
      • Place hand sanitizer at entry and exit points, key thoroughfares, attractions, rides, games, food and beverage concessions, and outside restrooms, as feasible.
      • Provide hand sanitizer to staff and vendors in staff-only areas at rides, booths, or stations where interactions or contact with guests is required and a handwashing station is not available. 
  • Signs and Messages
    • Post signs at entry points that list the requirements for entry (e.g., self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, temperature screenings, etc.) and any recommendations or requirements for guests (e.g., wear masks, practice frequent hand hygiene, practice social distancing, limit handshakes, fist bumps, and high-fives.).
    • Post signs in highly visible locations (e.g., at entrances, ticket booths, restrooms, concessions areas, information centers, ATMs) that promote everyday protective measurespdf icon and describe how to stop the spreadpdf icon of germs such as by properly washing hands and properly wearing a maskimage icon.
    • Broadcast regular announcements on PA systems about reducing the spread of COVID-19.
    • Include messages (for example, videos) about behaviors that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 when communicating with vendors, staff, and guests (such as on business websites, in emails, and on social media accounts).
    • Ensure signs and messages are culturally appropriate and provided in multiple languages. Consider developing signs and messages in alternative formats (e.g., large print, braille, American Sign Language) for people who have limited vision or are blind or people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
    • Find free COVID-19 print and digital resources in a variety of languages on CDC’s communications resources main page.

Maintaining Healthy Environments

Traveling amusement park and carnival operators should consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy environments.

  • Cleaning and Disinfection
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces within the park at least daily or between uses as much as possible – for example ATMS, handrails, turnstiles, faucets, cash registers/payment terminals, tables and countertops, lockers.
    • Use disinfectants from EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2external icon, the virus that causes COVID-19.
    • Disinfect shared objects and surfaces between uses – for example, game surfaces and equipment and safety bars or harnesses on rides. Clean the surface prior to disinfection if visibly dirty.
      • Follow the equipment manufacturer’s instructions for appropriate cleaning and disinfection procedures.
      • Porous items such as the burlap used for slides, or fabric straps and harnesses should be cleaned and disinfected at least daily or as frequently as possible using products approved for the material.
      • Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid pooling of liquids and to ensure that cleaning or disinfecting product residues are not left on surfaces. Residues could cause allergic reactions or skin irritations.
    • Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces.
    • Identify and designate staff to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and equipment, such as gaming equipment or grab bars or safety bars on rides.
    • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaners and disinfectants, including storing products securely away from children.
    • Ensure there is good ventilation, especially indoors, when using cleaning products to prevent employees or guests from inhaling toxic fumes.
    • Use disposable glovesexternal icon when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash.
      • After using disposable gloves, throw them out in a lined trash can.
      • Do not disinfect or reuse the gloves.
      • Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Shared Objects and Touch Points
    • Discourage people from sharing items that are difficult to clean or disinfect.
      • When possible, avoid sharing gaming items that are reusable, such as balls, toy guns, hammers, or other gaming equipment. Replace items after a new employee or new guest comes into contact with them, or disinfect between uses if replacement is not feasible.
      • Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing between staff (e.g., tools, payment systems, equipment, supplies) to the extent possible; otherwise, limit use of supplies and equipment by one group of workers at a time and disinfect between use. Clean the surface prior to disinfection if visibly dirty.
    • Consider closing rides, games, or attractions that cannot be cleaned and disinfected frequently or between use.
    • Keep game prizes out of reach of guests. Don’t allow guests to touch prizes before selecting.
    • Reduce touch points and use touchless options throughout the park as much as possible. For example, use radio frequency identification (RFID) bands to replace cash or ticket payment systems, automatic entry gates, and no-touch trash cans.
    • Use touchless payment options as much as possible, if available. If exchange of cash or card payments is required, ask guests to place payment method on a receipt tray or on the counter to avoid direct hand to hand contact. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as pens, trays, counters, or hard surfaces between use. Clean the surface prior to disinfection if visibly dirty.
    • Close or remove kiddie playground areas.
  • Modified Layouts and Procedures
    • Limit attendance to ensure guests or parties of guests, such as families and other groups, are able to maintain appropriate social distancing of at least 6 feet from others that are not in their household throughout the venue. Reduce capacity of indoor spaces accordingly to allow for social distancing.
    • Prioritize outdoor activities where social distancing can be maintained as much as possible.
    • Discourage guests from congregating and eliminate lines or queues if possible, or encourage people to stay at least 6 feet apart by providing signs or other visual cues such as tape or chalk markings.
    • Establish pedestrian traffic flow plans to reduce bottlenecks and ensure the ability to maintain social distancing on the park grounds.
      • Consider using multiple, single-direction entrances and exits and discourage crowded waiting areas where it may be difficult to maintain appropriate social distance.
      • Utilize separate park entry and exit points, as well as separate entry and exit points for ride loading and unloading, if feasible.
      • Consider making walkways one-way or clearly divided for bi-directional travel. Provide appropriate directional signs and markers, such as freestanding or on the ground, to indicate the appropriate direction of pedestrian travel.
    • Develop specific loading and spacing procedures for each ride and attraction to ensure social distancing.
      • Reduce occupancy of rides and attractions. For example, limit seating on rides to every other seat or car to ensure adequate distance between guests or family groups.
      • Block off rows or sections of seating in order to space people at least 6 feet apart.
      • Consider closing rides that do not allow for adequate spacing between riders or rides that would present a hazard for riders wearing masks.
    • Space out game booths to allow for adequate distancing for guests waiting in line. Limit participation at a game booth to one guest or family.
  • Physical Barriers and Guides
    • Install physical barriers and partitions in areas where maintaining social distancing is difficult.
      • Plexiglass barriers can be installed at ticket booths, point of sale stations, game booths (if feasible), etc.
      • Install gates or other barriers to separate adjacent areas or to direct pedestrian flow at high-traffic walkways and intersections.
    • Provide physical guides and markings such as posted signage and tape on the ground to ensure that guests remain at least 6 feet apart while waiting in line at entry points, ticket booths, rides, games, ATMs, restrooms, and concessions.
  • Communal Staff Spaces
    • If possible, close shared staff spaces, such as staff break rooms, kitchens, and offices; otherwise stagger time schedule and limit occupant number for their use.
    • Limit the number of people in shared spaces, including employee-only areas, gaming halls, and indoor amusement areas to ensure proper distancing of at least 6 feet.
    • Clean and disinfect shared spaces at least daily or as frequently as possible.
    • Provide outdoor options for staff areas and meetings.
    • Provide hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol at designated staff eating areas if handwashing stations or facilities are not available.
  • Restrooms
    • Increase the number of available restroom and handwashing facilities to alleviate crowding caused by waiting guests.
    • Consider limiting the number of people who can occupy the restroom at one time to allow for social distancing.
    • Do not allow lines or crowds to form near the restroom without maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from other people. It may be helpful to post signs or markers to help guests maintain the appropriate social distance of at least 6 feet.
    • Ensure that restrooms are:
      • Operational with functional toilets.
      • Cleaned and disinfected at least daily, and more often based on level of use, if possible, particularly high-touch surfaces such as faucets, toilets, stall doors, doorknobs, countertops, diaper changing tables, and light switches.
      • Stocked with supplies for handwashing, including soap and water or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer), a way to dry hands (e.g., paper towels, hand dryer), tissues, and no-touch/foot pedal trash cans (preferably covered).
        • If you are providing portable toilets, also provide portable handwashing stations and ensure that they remain stocked during operating hours. If possible, provide hand sanitizer stations that are touch-free.
  • Food and Beverage Concessions
    • There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread by food. However, people sharing utensils and congregating around food service areas can pose a risk for transmission of the virus.
    • If the park offers food and beverage concessions, refer to CDC’s COVID-19 considerations for restaurants and bars.
    • Use touchless payment options as much as possible, if available.
    • Ask customers and staff to exchange cash or card payments by placing them on a receipt tray or on the counter to avoid direct hand-to-hand contact.
    • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects such as pens, counters, tables, trays, or hard surfaces between use and encourage patrons to use their own pens. Clean the surface prior to disinfection if visibly dirty.
    • Space out concessions vendors to allow for adequate social distancing between guests waiting in lines.
    • Provide physical guides, such as tape markings on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that individuals remain at least 6 feet apart when waiting in line to order or pick up.
    • Consider providing grab-and-go meal options.
    • Use disposable food service items including utensils and dishes. If disposable items are not feasible or desirable, ensure that all non-disposable food service items are handled with gloves and washed with dish soap and hot water or in a dishwasher.
    • Employees should wash their hands after removing their gloves or after directly handling used food service items.
    • Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options such as drink stations. Remove communal high-touch items such as condiments and straw dispensers and replace with individual wrapped single-serve options provided by staff.
    • Minimize contact by handing food items to guests on a tray or with gloved hands.
    • Promote social distancing in seating areas. Space tables so all guest parties remain at least 6 feet apart.
  • Ventilation
    • Ensure indoor ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example, by opening windows and doors. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk to staff or attendees (e.g., risk of falling or triggering asthma symptoms).
    • If portable ventilation equipment like fans or misters are used, take steps to minimize air or mist from them blowing directly on or toward people to reduce the potential spread of any airborne or aerosolized viruses.
  • Water Systems
    • Take steps to ensure that all water systems, water-using devices and features (e.g., sink faucets, ice machines, decorative fountains, drinking fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.
    • Drinking fountains should be cleaned and disinfected frequently or closed if this is not possible.
    • Water misters that spray directly onto people should use only potable water. Develop a water management plan and monitor the disinfectant and temperature of the water to ensure that water is not sitting in the line for an extended period of time. Mount water misters high up to blow towards the ground, but avoid creating air movement that distributes dust.

Maintaining Healthy Operations

Traveling amusement park and carnival operators may consider implementing several strategies to maintain healthy operations.

  • Regulatory Awareness
    • Be aware of federal, state, local, territorial, or tribal policies and recommendations related to events and gatherings and agricultural fairs to determine if events can be held. Consider whether the event can be safely hosted even with substantial health and safety modifications.
  • Protections for Staff at Higher Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19
    • Offer options for staff at higher risk for severe illness (including older adults and people of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions) that limit their risk of exposure (e.g., telework and modified job responsibilities).
    • Put in place policies to protect the privacy of staff at higher risk for severe illness that are consistent with applicable federal, state, local, territorial or tribal privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
  • Recognize Signs and Symptoms
    • If feasible, conduct daily health checks or ask staff and guests to conduct self-checks (e.g., temperature screening and/or symptom checking). Consider using examples of screening methods in CDC’s General Business FAQs as a guide.
    • Health checks should be done for staff and guests safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable federal or state privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
  • Staggered or Rotated Shifts and Attendance Times
    • Stagger or rotate employee shifts to limit the number of staff on the park grounds at the same time.
    • Stagger and limit the number of guests allowed in the park at one time.
  • Travel and Transit
    • Encourage staff to follow general principles to protect themselves when using transportation, and consider using transportation options that minimize close contact with others (e.g., walking or biking, driving or riding by car alone or with household members only), if feasible. Consider offering the following support for people who use mass transit:
      • Ask staff to follow the CDC guidance on how to protect yourself when using transportation, including public transit.
      • Allow staff to shift their hours so they can commute during less busy times.
      • Ask staff to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol as soon as possible after their trip.
    • Reconfigure parking lots to limit congregation points and ensure proper separation of staff (e.g., closing every other parking space).
    • Encourage rideshare drivers to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in the vehicle and avoid providing pooled rides or picking up multiple passengers who would not otherwise be riding together on the same route.
  • Designated COVID-19 Point of Contact
    • Designate an employee or office to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All staff and guests should know who this person or office is and how to contact them.
  • Communication Systems
    • Provide messages to the public ahead of the scheduled amusement park or carnival event via website and social media
    • Notify staff and the public of cancellations and restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposures – for example limited operating hours or pre-event ticket sales to minimize the number of guests in line to purchase tickets at the park).
    • Advise the public that they should not attend if they have symptoms of, a positive test for, or were recently exposed (within 14 days) to COVID-19.
    • Encourage staff and guests to self-report to the COVID-19 point-of-contact if they have symptoms of COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days in accordance with health information privacy regulations for COVID-19external icon and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission confidentiality guidanceexternal icon. (e.g., see “Notify Health Officials and Close Contacts” in the Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick section below).
    • Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers associated with communicating COVID-19 information to event staff and participants. Tailor information so that it is easily understood by various audiences and is available in alternative formats and languages.
    • Learn more about reaching people of diverse languages and cultures by visiting: Know Your Audience. You also can learn more about communicating to staff in a crisis at: Crisis Communications Plan.external icon
  • Back-Up Staffing Plan in Case of COVID-19-Related Absenteeism
    • Monitor absenteeism of employees, cross-train staff, and create a roster of trained back-up staff in order to respond to staffing shortages that may be COVID-19 related.
    • Develop policies for return-to-work after COVID-19 illness. CDC’s criteria to end home isolation can inform these policies.
  • Support Coping and Resilience 
    • Promote employees’ ability to eat healthy foods, exercise, get enough sleep, and find time to unwind.
    • Encourage employees to talk with people they trust about their concerns and how they are feeling.
    • Consider posting signs for the national distress hotline: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746; The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224; and The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

Preparing for When Someone Gets Sick

Traveling amusement park and carnival operators should consider implementing several strategy options when someone gets sick.

  • Advise Sick Staff of Home Isolation Criteria
  • Isolate and Transport Those Who are Sick
    • Make sure that staff and guests know that they should not come to the park and that they should notify amusement park operators (e.g., the designated COVID-19 point of contact) if they become sick with COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with symptoms or a suspected or confirmed case.
    • Work with venue administrators, local health officials, and healthcare providers to identify an isolation area to separate anyone who has COVID-like symptoms or who has tested positive but does not have symptoms. Park healthcare providers should use Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions when caring for sick people. See: What Healthcare Personnel Should Know About Caring for Patients with Confirmed or Possible COVID-19 Infection.
    • Staff and guests with COVID-19 symptoms should be immediately separated from other staff and guests, and sent home or to a healthcare facility, depending on how severe their symptoms are, and follow CDC guidance for caring for oneself.
    • Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone sick to a healthcare facility. If you are calling an ambulance or bringing someone to the hospital, call first to alert them that the person may have COVID-19.
    • Amusement park operators may follow CDC’s Guidance for Shared or Congregate Housing for any employees who live in staff housing.
  • Clean and Disinfect
    • Close off areas used by persons with COVID-19 symptoms and do not use these areas until after cleaning and disinfecting them (for outdoor areas, this includes surfaces or shared objects in the area, if applicable).
    • If the area is indoors, open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area.
    • Wait at least 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible. Use disinfectants from EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2external icon.

Additional Resources

Last Updated Oct. 29, 2020