California Theme Parks Must Wait to Open Until Cases Subside
Visitors look around in Fantasyland at Walt Disney Co.’s Disneyland Resort during its reopening in Hong Kong, China. (Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg)

California Theme Parks Must Wait to Open Until Cases Subside

Walt Disney Co.’s Disneyland and other large theme parks in California must wait to reopen until their county hits the state’s lowest tier for coronavirus case statistics.

Local counties have to hit the yellow, or tier-four, status for parks to operate, Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary for health and human services, said in a press conference Tuesday. Smaller parks, such as amusement piers, may reopen when their counties hit the less-stringent orange tier.

The decision means some notable park operators, including Disney and Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios, will have to wait indefinitely until they reopen. Orange County, where Disneyland and Cedar Fair LP’s Knott’s Berry Farm are based, is in the red tier -- the second-worst.

California theme parks closed in March and industry leaders have been pressing Governor Gavin Newsom to let them reopen, especially after Florida attractions began operating again in June. The rules outlined Tuesday sparked negative reactions from the park operators, with Disney calling them “arbitrary” and Legoland saying they were “unacceptable.”

“These state guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community,” Disneyland President Ken Potrock said in a statement.

California’s color-coding system for reopening has four tiers based on the spread of the virus. Los Angeles County, where Universal is based, is in the purple tier, meaning it has the highest risk. San Diego County, where SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. operates its original park, is in the red grouping.

Ghaly said some large counties, including San Francisco, have been able to move into the yellow tier.

“We are seeing it now -- certain larger counties are able to move into yellow and we do believe it is possible,” he said.

When parks do reopen, they will be required to operate a reservation system and limit attendance to 25% of capacity. Smaller parks will only be allowed to let in residents who live in their county.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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