Recently, we’ve seen quite a few updates when it comes to health and safety rules in Disney World and other theme parks.
Disney has already announced that they will be phasing out temperature checks and gradually reducing social distancing. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided updated mask guidance for those who are fully vaccinated. And yesterday Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek made a number of comments about the CDC’s updated guidance and how it could impact the parks. Will Disney World change their mask policies soon? Here’s what we’re seeing.
Let’s start with the updated CDC guidance. According to the most recent updates from the CDC, fully vaccinated people may resume many indoor and outdoor activities without a mask. There are some exceptions, however, when it comes to trains, planes, and other locations, particularly those where masks continue to be mandated by local or federal law, or by a business’ rules.
Keep in mind that the CDC defines “fully vaccinated” to be 2 weeks after a person’s last required COVID-19 vaccination dose (a.k.a. the 2nd dose in a 2-dose series, or the 1st dose in a 1-dose series).
The CDC continues to also state that unvaccinated people should wear a mask in many situations, including when attending a crowded, outdoor event like a live performance, parade, or sports event.
So, what has Disney said in response?
During the recent earnings call for the second quarter of fiscal year 2021, one individual asked for “Any color you can provide on how we should think or how you’re thinking about when it’s OK to start raising capacity, attendance capacity, particularly at Disney World.”
Chapek responded by saying “Obviously, today’s guidance that we got from the CDC in terms of those that were vaccinated do not necessarily need to wear masks anymore, both outdoors and indoors, is very big news for us, particularly if anybody’s been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on. That could be quite daunting.”
Chapek went on to say “So we think that’s going to make for an even more pleasant experience. And we believe that as we’re now bringing back a lot of people back to work, that it’s going to be an even bigger catalyst for growth in attendance.”
In an interview with CNBC’s Fast Money, Chapek was asked about how the CDC’s updated guidelines will change the rules in the parks. Chapek responded by stating, “there’s gonna be a lot more comfortable people this summer in Orlando. You can only imagine what it’d be like in 95 degrees and 95% humidity wearing a mask so we’re thrilled to be able to do that.”
In both of those statements discussed above, Chapek doesn’t expressly state that mask guidelines in Disney World will be changing soon. But, his statements do seem to imply that a change in mask policy might be a possibility or something potentially under consideration.
By stating that it will be a more “pleasant experience” or that there will be “more comfortable people” in Orlando this summer, it seems Chapek is indicating that a change in mask policy might cause these things. It also seems like this change might be coming soon as the official start of summer is around the corner. Summer is officially set to begin in June of this year.
It’s possible, however, that Chapek is simply indicating that people will feel more comfortable in general as they’ll be able to remove their masks in other places, or they may feel more comfortable traveling in general as more individuals become vaccinated. Overall, it seems like Chapek’s statements are pointing at a potential change in Disney World’s mask policy but nothing official has been shared yet.
Another Disney spokesperson has issued a statement about the updated guidance from the CDC. That statement reads, “Today’s guidance from the CDC allowing fully vaccinated individuals to remove masks and the removal of physical distancing requirements is extremely positive news and as soon as is practical we will implement updated guidelines across our businesses.”
This statement from the Disney representative does seem to include more firm language in terms of updated guidelines coming to Disney World related to face masks, but again we’ll just have to wait and see.
If Disney does adjust its mask regulations, potentially just for vaccinated individuals, it could cause a number of complications in terms of enforcement. It could also be a bit of an awkward situation if vaccinated adults and older children (who are now eligible to receive the vaccine) can be in the park without their masks, but younger children in the same party (who are not yet eligible for the vaccine) are required to wear masks. Might be hard to get your 5 year old to wear their mask if you don’t have to wear yours!
Could other theme parks’ actions give us an idea of what Disney might do next? It’s possible. Today, Universal Orlando announced that masks will no longer be required to be worn by any guests outdoors (except in certain situations). Masks will continue to be required in all indoor locations, however.
Hershey Theme Park has also removed face mask requirements for select guests. Just because these other parks have changed their rules doesn’t mean Disney will, but it could give us an idea of the possibilities Disney is exploring.
At the moment, Disney has not changed their face mask policies yet. All guests ages 2 and up are required to wear face masks at all times while on property except when specifically allowed to be removed (such as when at a mask-free relaxation station). Masks continue to be required in Disney World even for guests who have been fully vaccinated.
We’ll keep an eye out for more updates and let you know what we see.