By Jon Swartz
Reopening guidelines for theme parks in California — such as Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, shuttered for more than seven months because of the coronavirus pandemic — were announced Tuesday by state health officials. Park visitors will have to wait.
Larger theme parks such as Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, both in Anaheim; Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City; Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park; and Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, will not be allowed to open until their respective counties are in the “yellow” tier, the least-restrictive of the state’s four-tiered system guiding reopenings .
Even then, capacity will be limited to 25% of normal, and reservations will be required in advance, according to California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly. He said face masks will be required in the park, except when eating and drinking.
Smaller parks, meanwhile, can reopen with modifications in the “orange” tier, which is one step down from the “yellow tier.” Those parks — defined as facilities with overall capacity of less than 15,000 people — will also have capacity limits of 25%, or 500 people, whichever is lower. Only outdoor attractions are permitted to be open, reservations are required, and only people from that county will be able to attend.
Disneyland’s capacity, by comparison, is about 85,000 guests.
A Disney executive promptly criticized the state’s new guidelines. “We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world,” Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resort, said in a statement emailed to MarketWatch. “Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities.”
Park closures have taken a toll on the state economy and the companies that operate them. Last month, for example, Walt Disney Co. (NYS:DIS) said it would lay off 28,000 employees across its parks, experiences and consumer products division.
Read more: Disney to lay off 28,000 workers, exec says California ‘exacerbated’ pandemic’s effects
The company’s parks in Florida, Paris, Shanghai, Japan and Hong Kong have reopened with limited capacity, but both California Adventure and Disneyland remain closed in Anaheim.