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Disney Bristles at California Rules; Iger Quits Task Force

Christopher Palmeri
·2 mins read

(Bloomberg) -- An industry group representing Walt Disney Co. and other theme-park operators lashed out at new guidance from California, which would only allow attractions like Disneyland to reopen under strict conditions.

The organization called for changes to the rules, which haven’t been formally released yet but began to surface on Thursday. Parks would be allowed to reopen at just 25% of capacity and would have to limit visitors to people living within a certain distance, according to Carlye Wisel, an industry podcaster. They’ll also require advance reservations and mandatory face coverings.

In a sign of the tensions between Disney and California, Chairman Bob Iger has resigned from the governor’s Covid-19 recovery task force, the company confirmed on Thursday. The Sacramento Bee previously reported his exit.

“While we are aligned on many of the protocols and health and safety requirements, there are many others that need to be modified if they are to lead to a responsible and reasonable amusement park reopening plan,” the industry group, the California Attractions & Parks Association, said in an emailed statement.

On Friday, California’s Health and Human Services department, which originally planned to release the guidelines this week, said they are now being delayed.

“Given the size and operational complexities of these unique sectors, we are seeking additional input from health, workforce and business stakeholders to finalize this important framework -- all leading with science and safety,” the department’s secretary, Mark Ghaly, said in an emailed statement.

The protocols are one step in the approval process for parks to reopen. Counties where the properties are located will also have to meet milestones for progress in the fight against Covid-19.

Disney and other theme-park operations, such as Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios and SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., have been pressing Governor Gavin Newsom to let them reopen. Earlier this week, 19 state legislators wrote a letter to the governor, a Democrat, saying the time had come.

Theme parks in Florida, the largest market, began reopening in June and have done so without large outbreaks, according to officials in that state.

Disney, based in Burbank, California, said this week it is laying off 28,000 U.S. workers in its domestic resorts operation -- roughly a quarter of the workforce in that division.

(Updates with guidelines delay in fifth paragraph.)

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