Disney, SeaWorld Jump on Florida’s Steps to Open Theme Parks

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis asked theme parks to submit plans to the state on how to safely reopen, boosting the shares ofWalt Disney Co. andSeaWorld Entertainment Inc.

Speaking Friday in Jacksonville, DeSantis said park operators should identify a date for reopening and provide details on how they’ll protect guests and staff from Covid-19. Before submitting plans to the state, DeSantis said they must be endorsed by a local official such as a mayor.

Orlando is the theme-park capital of the world, with multiple resorts operated by Disney,Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios and SeaWorld. Nationally, all three companies, and smaller players likeCedar Fair LP andSix Flags Entertainment Corp., were shut down by the Covid-19 outbreak and are facing a summer of reduced traffic and closure in some places.

“My goal on all of this is, let’s keep safety first, but let’s work and innovate to get to yes on this stuff,” DeSantis told reporters. “I can’t tell you when this is going to be. But I think that we need to say, ‘Come up with your plan and show us what you got.’”

Shares of SeaWorld surged 7.6% to $13.80 at the close in New York, while Disney rose 3% to $109.05 and Cedar Fair gained 2.4% to $25.10.

Orange County, Florida, Mayor Jerry Demings — whose jurisdiction includes Orlando — said in a press conference Friday afternoon that he’s had conversations with the theme-park operators, but hasn’t received plans from them to reopen. The mayor said it would likely be June or later before they open.

“Suffice it to say they’re looking at later dates to reopen, and I believe that what we can expect or anticipate in our community is a measured reopening,” Demings said. “They will likely start with smaller business units, maybe hotels and resort-type areas, before the major massive theme parks themselves will reopen. But in either case clearly that is going to be sometime in June or thereafter.”

Florida Restarts

DeSantis made his remarks as part of a broader announcement about reopening the state’s economy. Beginning Monday, DeSantis will allow gyms to reopen. Retailers and restaurants can operate at 50% indoor capacity, up from a previous 25%.

Businesses began reopening last week, with the governor saying the local health-care system had held up and the Sunshine State dodged worst-case scenarios predicted by some analysts. He said Friday that ventilator use and Covid-19 patients in intensive-care units have both declined significantly since the start of Florida’s stay-home order on April 3.

“The American people never signed up for a perpetual shelter in place,” DeSantis said.

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