WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — The past year has been a roller coaster of a ride.
A couple of Virginia’s biggest tourist attractions are back — closer to normal — after not reopening for full capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA announced on Saturday afternoon that they are no longer requiring masks for guests who are fully vaccinated. This change goes into effect on Sunday and is in line with updated guidance from the governor and CDC.
The mask policy, however, will remain in place for their employees for the time being.
“We will not require proof of vaccine, but ask our guests to respectfully comply with our revised policy,” they said in a press release.
Further changes to their policy will be made in the future, if necessary.
On Thursday Busch Gardens will welcome guests back. Water Country USA opens Saturday following a preview weekend.
Park President Kevin Lembke said masks can’t be worn in the water due to safety reasons.
Social distancing is still required and additional sanitizing procedures are still in place.
“The feedback overall has been very positive as this is what guests were asking for. We know that’s not how every guest feels, but ultimately it’ll be the guest’s choice,” Lembke stated.
Lembke said they got a taste of the newly-eased restrictions on Sunday.
“Overall, very smooth. Some guests still chose to wear masks, where others who are vaccinated were able to take advantage of the change,” said Lembke.
Like many businesses across Hampton Roads, Lembke said they still have a few hundred positions open. He said this may cause some park impacts from time to time.
As an incentive, new hires will get a $200 to $500 bonus. Starting wage is now $13 to $14 an hour.
Lembke said people still getting unemployment benefits is just one factor he believes is leading to the lack of employees.
“Lack of childcare we’ve heard is an issue, some folks just not feeling comfortable getting back out,” said Lembke.
Overall, he said they expect the number of guests to be the same as any summer before the pandemic.
To fill those needed positions, they are having hiring fairs every Tuesday and Thursday through the end of the month. They’re being held from 5-8 p.m. on those days.
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