What happened

Shares of Six Flags (SIX 1.36%), SeaWorld (SEAS 2.65%), and Cedar Fair (FUN 1.66%) all plunged more than 10% on Thursday, as the number of people infected with COVID-19 -- the disease caused by the novel coronavirus -- continues to rise.

So what

There are now more than 97,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world, and over 3,300 people have died from the disease. Health officials warn that the outbreak is likely to spread, with many more people potentially becoming ill in the coming weeks.

Amid this frightening backdrop, amusement park stocks fell sharply on Thursday. Investors are rightfully questioning whether people will want to visit the crowded parks operated by Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and SeaWorld at a time when COVID-19-related fears are mounting.

A person in a business suit looking at downwardly sloping charts

Amusement park stocks have been hit hard by coronavirus fears. Image source: Getty Images.

Now what 

Should coronavirus concerns result in a significant decline in season and daily pass sales at their parks, Cedar Fair, Six Flags, and SeaWorld could experience a sharp drop in profits this year. Worse still, if concerns regarding disease transmission extend beyond this year, amusement park operators may face a challenging road ahead.