To ensure we are equipping our readers with all the information they need, we will continue to report on all travel, safety, and COVID-related news that could impact a Disney Parks visit.
We’ve seen A LOT of health and safety guidelines at Disney World change since the parks reopened after their unprecedented closure due to the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020.
For example, we’ve seen temperature checkpoints removed from park entrances, physical distancing measures reduced throughout the parks and resorts, and more. But, one policy has received quite a few more updates over the past 18 months compared to others — the face mask policy. Masks have been mandated in some capacity since Disney World first began its phased reopening and, as CDC guidance has evolved, so have the mandates. So, let’s recap the past few years and go over the timeline of Disney World’s face mask requirement.
May 7th: Disney announced that Disney Springs would be the first location to reopen on May 20th. As part of the announcement, it was shared that a new policy would be in place that incorporated “the use of appropriate face coverings by both Cast Members and guests.” Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro cleared up any confusion later that day by saying that Disney Springs would require “both our cast members and guests to wear face coverings.”
At the time, this policy seemed vague compared to what we know today.
May 20th: Disney Springs reopened to guests! The face mask policy was enforced from the very beginning, but the policy (and enforcement) remained vague as to what qualified as an appropriate face covering for Cast Members and guests.
May 27th: Disney World presented its reopening plans to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force. During the presentation, it was announced that the parks would reopen on July 11th and 15th, 2020. The face mask policy remained mostly unchanged from what was being used at Disney Springs, with masks being mandatory for all guests, except when eating or drinking.
This is also when Disney introduced the idea of “relaxation stations,” which would be dedicated areas in the parks where guests could temporarily remove their masks for a break.
May 28th: Disney announced the first major update to the face mask policy. Although face coverings were first only required to be worn by all guests ages 3 and up, the policy was updated to require that all guests ages 2 and up wear a proper face covering when visiting.
June 22nd: Even after Disney World reopened the parks, its mask policy remained mostly unchanged. However, when Disney World reopened the first wave of hotels on June 22nd, more specific mandates on when guests would need to wear masks at the hotels were established.
The new policy required that all guests ages 2 and up wear masks at all times when not in their room. Masks could however be removed when actively eating or drinking or when swimming in a pool.
July 10th: The first BIG update to the Disney World face covering policy came on July 10th when Disney outlined what constituted a proper face covering. Prior to the clarification, the definition of “appropriate face mask” was up for interpretation. However, the new guidelines were much more specific.
Just one day prior to the parks reopening, Disney updated their policy to state that neck gaiters and open-chin triangle bandanas would not be considered acceptable face coverings. Additionally, Disney stated that a face covering needed to be secured with ties or ear loops. They also ruled out face shields as appropriate face coverings, unless worn over a mask.
July 11th and 15th: All four Disney World parks reopened to the public for the first time since closing. This was when we got our first look at the new relaxation stations (aka where guests could temporarily remove their masks) in all four parks and we learned from PhotoPass Cast Members that face masks were required to be worn while taking photos.
July 18th: As the Taste of EPCOT Food and Wine Festival approached (marking the first “big” event in the parks since reopening), Disney World made another significant change to its mask policy to address whether guests could eat and drink “on the go” in the parks.
The new guidelines stated that guests must be “stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing” while eating or drinking in order to take off their masks. We also noticed new signage reflecting this update and the overhead announcements throughout the parks were changed to include the new policy.
July 26th, 2020: Disney added to its list of what did not constitute a proper face covering stating that “masks with valves, holes, or mesh material” would not be permitted.
September 2nd: There were no updates to the mask guidelines for over a month, but Disney World’s overhead announcements were changed to remind guests that masks could not be removed when taking photos.
September 11th: The overhead announcement was changed once again to note that “face coverings must fully cover your nose and mouth, and be worn at all times except while actively eating or drinking while stationary.“
October 9th: For the first time, Disney outlined consequences for not complying with the face mask policy by adding new signs in the parks stating that “Guests not properly wearing an approved mask will be asked to leave.”
October 13th: Disney updated the overhead announcements to include the new warning for those who do not properly wear their face coverings in the resort area.
October 16th: More mask enforcement language was added to Disney World’s website recommending that guests rebook their trip for a future date if they cannot comply with the mask mandate.
These events marked a big shift in Disney World’s mask policies as the mandates (and their enforcement) became much stricter throughout the parks and resorts.
November 2nd: When we visited the parks, we found that Disney’s face masks got a BIG price change, increasing from $6 per mask to $9.99 a piece plus tax.
November 4th: The overhead announcements in the parks were updated yet again to include that “Face coverings must fully cover your nose and mouth and be worn at all times while in line.” This was part of a new requirement that prevented guests from eating and drinking while waiting in line for attractions.
January 26th: The face mask policy remained unchanged throughout the rest of 2020 and it wasn’t until the New Year that Disney announced its next big update as they prepared to officially reopen Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park.
The new policy applied only to the water parks and stated that face coverings would be required in designated areas for guests ages 2 and up. These “designated areas” will include the park entrance and exit, retail areas, and food and beverage ordering areas.
However, the policy noted that face coverings were NOT allowed while guests were on water slides or in the water. Additionally, guests could remove masks when actively eating or drinking, but only while stationary and maintaining physical distance from others.
February 26th: Disney World further clarified their expectations for guests wearing masks when dining at Disney World restaurants. The new policy stated that guests must wear face coverings “while standing, waiting, or sitting in dining locations” and were only permitted to remove them when actively eating or drinking.
Previously, guests were able to remove their masks when seated at their tables.
March 3rd: We started to see new signs at the parks reminding guests of what is and isn’t considered appropriate face coverings.
April 6th: For the first time since implementing the face mask policy, Disney relaxed select guidelines. They announced that, as of April 8th, guests would be able to temporarily remove their masks to take pictures while outdoors as long as they remained stationary and maintained appropriate physical distancing.
April 27th: The CDC announced new face mask guidelines that relaxed recommendations for both those who are considered fully vaccinated (which is considered to be 2 weeks after receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine) and those who are unvaccinated.
The guidance stated that fully vaccinated individuals no longer needed to wear masks outdoors while walking, running, hiking, or biking alone or with members of their household, or if they attend small outdoors gatherings. However, outside of these locations, the CDC recommended that they continue to wear masks and social distance, even while outdoors.
Additionally, the CDC’s new guidelines stated that unvaccinated individuals may go without their masks while running, walking, or biking outdoors or with members of their households and could forgo masks while attending small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated individuals.
No changes were made to the recommendations for wearing masks indoors and the CDC’s new outdoor mask guidelines did state that even fully vaccinated individuals should continue to wear a mask at “crowded outdoor” events.
May 13th: Disney CEO Bob Chapek suggested that mask changes could be coming to the Disney Parks during a Walt Disney Company quarterly earnings call stating that the new CDC guidance was “big news” for Disney and that he felt the new guidance was “going to make for an even more pleasant experience” for guests at the parks.
May 15th: Disney World massively overhauled its face mask policy, no longer requiring that guests wear masks outdoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Masks remained required “upon entering and throughout all attractions, theaters and transportation” and at all indoor locations, “except when actively eating or drinking while stationary and maintaining appropriate physical distancing.”
May 21st: As a result of the new mask policy, we started to notice several relaxation stations close in the parks.
June 15th: Disney World updated the policy once again to no longer required that fully vaccinated guests wear face coverings both indoors and outdoors, except when on Disney transportation, including Disney buses, monorails, and the Disney Skyliner.
Guests who were not fully vaccinated were required to continue wearing face masks in all indoor locations and upon entering and throughout all attractions and transportation, however proof of vaccination was not required.
Disney also announced that they would begin relaxing social distancing guidelines in the parks at this time.
July 27th: Due to an uptick in COVID-19 numbers and the spread of a new COVID-19 Delta variant, the CDC changed its guidance to recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors once again if they live in places with “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission
July 30th: In response to the new CDC recommendations, Disney World once again updated its face mask policy to require all guests ages 2 and up to wear masks in any indoor locations, regardless of vaccination status.
This once again included upon entering and throughout all attractions (either indoor or outdoor) and on Disney buses, monorail, and Disney Skyliner.
August 19th: Disney clarified their mask requirements in regards to outdoor attractions, allowing all guests to remove their face masks in outdoor attractions, outdoor queue areas, and outdoor theaters.
This is the face mask policy that remains in place as of this writing.
Over the past two years, it’s become clear that Disney is keeping a close eye on proper face mask guidelines and implementing best practices based on current CDC recommendations. Of course, we can likely expect to see more updates to come as the COVID-19 situation evolves so be sure to stay tuned to DFB as we will continue to bring you the most up-to-date face mask policies when visiting the parks and resorts.
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What do you think about the mask policy changes at Disney World? Let us know in the comments.