Disney World has required face masks on property since the parks reopened in July 2020.
Right now, all guests are required to wear an approved face covering at ALL times, unless when actively eating or drinking while stationary, or while taking outdoor photos. However, with COVID-19 vaccines rolling out throughout the country and states planning a return to “normal,” we’re taking a look at when we could see these policies shift.
Let’s start by backing up a little. In February, Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, stated that he expected some level of mask-wearing and social distancing to be in effect at all Disney parks through 2021. However, there’s an important caveat. He added that “a game changer would be if everyone who wants a vaccine can get a vaccine in April.”
It’s now May, and President Joe Biden has announced that every American ages 16 and up is able to get the COVID-19 shot. This comes after this eligibility had already been expanded in many states, including Florida. Needless to say, we’re seeing the vaccine being distributed much quicker than anticipated.
To match this vaccination rate, states have started to look at how they might be able to ease mask and social distancing guidelines. Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County, Florida, explained that the mask mandate might end when around 50% of the population has been vaccinated. That figure had been reached as of May 14th. Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed an order suspending all local COVID-19 restrictions.
Mayor Demings is partnering with the CDC to develop his strategy — and the health organization has come out with its own statements on mask-wearing and vaccinations. Recently, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals can safely travel within the United States. They also announced that full vaccinated individuals can gather indoors without masks indoors. Then, the CDC updated to say that fully vaccinated individuals can resume pre-pandemic activities without a mask except where required by law or mandate.
In response to the updated guidance from the CDC, Universal Orlando has updated its mask policy to not require masks outdoors. Guests are still required to wear masks indoors and on all attractions and in queues.
So what does all of this mean for Disney World? After the latest CDC announcement, Chapek noted that the guidance released by the CDC about masks is big news “particularly if anybody’s been in Florida in the middle of the summer with a mask on.” Later, in an interview with CNBC, Chapek said, “There’s going to be a lot more comfortable people this summer in Orlando.” Disney has yet to announce any specific changes in response to the updated guidance.
We’ve already seen mask policies in the Disney World parks easing, as guests are no longer required to wear a face covering while taking stationary photos outdoors. A few other safety measures have been eliminated, too, like hand-washing stations and no-touch refillable drink stations. Recently, Disney even announced plans to reduce social distancing measures throughout the parks. Could this mean things are returning to “normal” in Disney?
Ultimately, there’s no way to know for sure. Again, Disney has not updated its statement on when masks may no longer be required, and as of now, a face covering is mandatory everywhere on property. Disney also recently shared that face coverings will be required for their Boo Bash Halloween event.
If you’re planning a trip in 2021 and in 2022, you should expect to follow all current safety guidelines until told otherwise. Even as we see states loosen restrictions, Disney may not do the same.
We’re keeping a close eye on the situation, so we’ll be sure to let you know if anything changes. Stay tuned to DFB — we’ll bring you all the latest updates.
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Are you planning a trip to Disney World? Let us know in the comments!