Theme parks have made some BIG changes recently when it comes to altered health and safety regulations. And, if you’re left with questions, you aren’t alone!
Since the end of April, Americans over the age of 16 have had access to the COVID-19 vaccine. And, now this accessibility is being extended to individuals ages 12 to 15 years old. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that those who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks indoors or outdoors, except in certain situations. After that updated guidance from the CDC was issued, theme parks made numerous changes to their own policies. Today, we’re giving you all the details of what you need to know about how the face mask rules have changed in Disney World, Universal Orlando, and beyond!
Recently, based on updated research the CDC made a big update to its mask guidance. CDC officials announced that individuals who have been fully vaccinated can resume activities without wearing a mask or physical distancing from others, with a few exceptions.
It’s important to note that the CDC identifies people to be “fully vaccinated” 2 weeks after they received their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC still maintains that people who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear face masks and maintain an appropriate physical distance from others in many settings, including when attending a crowded, outdoor event like a live performance or parade.
After health officials set these updated protocols in place, theme parks promptly made modifications to their face covering protocols.
Theme Park Updates
Dollywood and Hershey Park
Even before the CDC’s updated announcement, we saw theme parks like Dolly Parton’s Dollywood in Tennessee begin relaxing face mask policies and getting rid of mandatory temperature checks.
After the CDC released their updated mask policies, Hershey Park in Pennsylvania quickly announced changes to their policies. In Hershey Park, guests who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear face coverings or social distance.
Hershey Park has also stated that it will not require proof of guests’ vaccination status. Instead, the park notes that it will rely on its visitors to accurately follow the guidelines based on their own vaccination status. Similar to the CDC’s recommendations, guests who haven’t been fully vaccinated are expected to continue wearing masks and distancing.
Soon afterward, other major theme parks began to make similar changes. Universal Orlando had already removed temperature checks and distancing guidelines previously.
Then, on May 14th, Universal Orlando made the announcement that ALL guests would no longer be required to wear face masks outdoors (except in certain situations), regardless of what their vaccination status may be.
Face masks are still be required, however, in both indoor and outdoor queues, in all attractions, in indoor areas (like shops), in restaurants until you’re seated at your table, and in indoor hotel public areas.
Bob Chapek, the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, had previously indicated that Disney World was increasing its park capacity “given the guidance that just came today, from the CDC, and earlier guidance that [they] got from the governor of Florida.” In turn, Park Pass availability also increased.
Chapek also stated that the CDC’s modified requirements could “make for an even more pleasant experience” for the guests and Cast Members in the parks, “particularly if anybody’s been in Florida in the middle of the summer with a mask on.”
Disney also released an official statement that “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.”
Disney World had already been making modifications in the parks regarding its health and safety policies. Disney had already announced that it would be phasing out temperature checks and gradually reducing physical distancing measures. Disney also recently started allowing guests to take off their masks for outdoor photos briefly.
But the big change came late in the evening on May 14th. That’s when Disney World announced that guests, regardless of their vaccination status, will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors, except in certain situations.
Face coverings are now optional in outdoor common areas and pool decks. But, they are still required upon entering and during all attractions, in all theaters (and their entrances) in all transportation (and their entrances), in restaurants (unless actively eating or drinking while stationary), and in all indoor locations.
As these policies have already gone into effect. We have also seen that temperature checks have ended a bit earlier than originally anticipated and distancing signs have started to be updated across the parks and resorts to show Disney’s changes. We’ve also seen distancing measures reduced at The Festival of the Lion King and another show in Disney World.
Keep in mind that while distancing measures are being reduced in Disney World, some physical distancing is still being enforced.
Disney notes that physical distancing is gradually being reduced but 6-feet distancing measures continue in dining locations, stores, and select other places.
MORE Changes That May Be Coming to Theme Parks in the Future
At this time, Disney World, Universal Orlando, and many other businesses that have changed their mask policies aren’t asking visitors for proof of their vaccination status. Some places, however, have been looking into the use of vaccine passports, which would allow customers to show their vaccination status or potentially recent COVID-19 test results.
Health and government officials have talked about possible platforms that may enable the use of vaccine passports. But, Florida has banned the use of vaccine passports in the state.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has already signed an Executive Order banning the issuance and use of vaccine passports in the state. The Florida legislature has also passed a bill, which was signed into law by the Florida Governor and will become effective soon, that prohibits Florida businesses and government agencies from requiring vaccine passports.
While Disney and Universal Orlando are not currently requiring any proof of vaccination, this law would prevent them from doing so in the future.
As the situation with COVID-19 changes, we may continue to see more changes made in the theme parks such as further reductions in social distancing, greater relaxation of mask rules, the reopening of experiences that are still closed, and more. We’ve already seen several things returning to “normal” in Disney World, and more changes are likely on the way. But, that will likely all depend on the situation with the pandemic, case numbers, vaccination rates, and when/how the theme parks decide it is the right time to make more changes.
We’ll be sure to monitor for any other changes and update you on everything you need to know before your next visit. Be sure to stay tuned with DFB for the latest Disney news!
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What has your recent experience been like in theme parks? Let us know in the comments below!