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'Silent Screams': Will U.S. Amusement Parks Ban Screaming On Roller Coasters?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

What does summer sound like?

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Well, in a usual year, it sounds like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)

KELLY: Screams of joy as the brave among us hurdle down the tracks of a roller coaster.

CHANG: But that's so 2019. This year, during the summer of COVID-19, amusement parks in Japan have banned screaming on rides. What you get instead is this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROLLER COASTER CAR CLACKING)

KELLY: This is sound from a video shot at Fuji-Q Highland in Japan. It opens with a title card that says, a new style of screaming. Then we see two very sober, mask-wearing men - park execs - alone on a roller coaster. One wears a jacket and tie. The other one's wearing a white short-sleeve shirt and a bow tie. These guys - they are rule-followers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROLLER COASTER CAR CLACKING)

CHANG: Not a whisper from them. And at the end of the video, another title card - scream inside your heart.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROLLER COASTER CAR CLACKING)

KELLY: Because if you scream inside your heart, you're keeping your scream and any virus particles to yourself. The question is, would any U.S. amusement park impose the same rule?

NICK PARADISE: It is an interesting approach. I don't know how effective it would be, you know, here.

KELLY: Nick Paradise is with Pittsburgh's Kennywood amusement park. That park is scheduled to reopen for season pass holders tomorrow. Paradise thinks social distancing and other rules will be enough to keep people safe on the park's eight roller coasters.

PARADISE: Asking people to not scream is a little too much, at least right now. I think kind of crawl, walk, run. We'll be very satisfied and thankful for people following the recommendations to wear the face mask.

CHANG: Those masks will have to be worn everywhere except the water rides.

PARADISE: And we are also going to be limiting capacity and practicing social distancing on the coasters.

CHANG: Like a lot of other parks in the country, Kennywood opened months later than usual. Disney World reopens this week, but Disneyland in California is waiting until it gets a, quote, "better understanding" of state rules.

KELLY: Dollywood in Tennessee - it's now open. The Six Flags chain is reopening on a state-by-state basis.

CHANG: By the time our favorite theme parks are safely back online, we may be out of practice when it comes to handling steep drops and corkscrew loops.

KELLY: But one thing we will have plenty of practice with, this being 2020, is screaming inside our hearts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SOUND OF SILENCE")

SIMON AND GARFUNKEL: (Singing) Within the sound of silence. In restless dreams I walked alone, narrow streets of cobblestone. Neath the halo of a streetlamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.