Instead of breathing a sigh of relief, Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal studios are crying foul as California finally issued guidelines for reopening the state's largest theme parks.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's secretary of Health and Human Services, issued lengthy reopening protocols that are much more restrictive than those faced by other businesses, meaning Disneyland and Universal Studios theme parks will remain shuttered for a while longer.
The reopening guidelines state that larger parks will only be allowed to open in counties that have reached Tier 4, where danger of spreading the disease is "minimal," the least restrictive of the state's reopening guidelines. Smaller parks will be permitted to open in Tier 3, the "moderate" tier. For context, Tier 1 indicates the virus is widespread in a given county, while Tier 2 indicates "substantial" spread. Orange County, home to Disneyland is currently in Tier 2, while Los Angeles County, which houses Universal Studios, is in Tier 1.
Once the theme parks are allowed to reopen, they will still face restrictions. All parks will be required to implement advance ticket sales to allow for contact tracing, and attendance will be limited to 25% of capacity. The wearing of face coverings will be mandatory for all guests, except those eating and drinking in specifically designated areas, and physical distancing measures will be required.
Representatives of both Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios fired back at the tier system restrictions, calling them "arbitrary guidelines" that are "irreparably devastating."
"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," said Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock, citing successful reopenings in Florida and elsewhere.
Karen Irwin, President & COO of Universal Studios Hollywood, echoed those thoughts, saying "Pushing us into Tier Four behind other businesses that have already reopened makes no sense," she said.