UPDATE 2-No clear date for Disneyland reopening under strict California guidelines
(Adds comment from Disney, background)
LOS ANGELES, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Officials in California, home to Walt Disney Co's Disneyland, gave no clear date on Tuesday for the reopening of large theme parks, saying they must wait until a county's COVID-19 risk level drops to the lowest tier of "minimal" spread.
The decision, announced by California's health secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, means an extended closure for both Disneyland, which is in Anaheim in Orange County, and Comcast Corp's Universal Studios.
"These State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future," Ken Potrock, the Disneyland resort's president, said in a statement, calling the new guidelines "arbitrary" and "unworkable."
Ghaly acknowledged that a reopening date for Disneyland could be far off.
"I don't know when Orange County will enter the yellow (minimal) tier," Ghaly told a news briefing. "We do believe that it is possible. It will require a lot of work, a lot of vigilance," he said, citing strict social distancing, testing and mask use by the general public.
The delay follows months of appeals by Disney executives for the parks to reopen. All other Disney theme parks, including Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, have reopened with limited attendance, mask requirements and other safety measures.
Disney in September announced it was laying off 28,000 employees from its theme parks, and laid part of the blame on California's unwillingness to allow the parks to reopen.
Under California's four-tier scheme, the yellow tier means daily cases of coronavirus must number less than one per 100,000.
Orange County is currently in the red, or "substantial" tier, while Los Angeles County, where Universal Studios is located, is in the highest "widespread" tier.
Ghaly on Tuesday announced less restrictive guidelines for smaller theme parks, with a capacity of 15,000 visitors or less. They will be allowed to open at 25% reduced capacity once the counties in which they are located reach the "moderate" spread level.
Ghaly said health officials were concerned about the potential for random mixing at larger theme parks that draw visitors from many areas of the nation. He said smaller theme parks attract a more local crowd and tend not to have the amount of indoor attractions and indoor eating facilities seen in larger parks. (Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant Editing by Leslie Adler, Tom Brown and Jonathan Oatis)
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