Families can now walk right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A. at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom without wearing a face mask.
announced late Friday that it had updated its policy regarding face coverings for visitors and employees at the Walt Disney World, including the resort’s four theme parks, hotels and the Disney Springs shopping area.
As of May 15, guests are allowed to go maskless if they choose while in outdoor common areas and at pool decks. Masks will still be required in all indoor locations throughout the resort, including on transportation and in restaurants when not eating or drinking, a Disney spokesperson explained.
This is not the first time Disney has relaxed its COVID-19 safety rules related to masks. Recently, the theme park began allowing guests to remove their face masks when taking a photo outdoors if they were physically distanced and remained stationary. Previously, guests were only allowed to take their masks off when eating or drinking or when visiting a designated “relaxation station” in one of the company’s four Florida theme parks.
Disney had hinted at further changes to its face-mask policy during its quarterly earnings call with investors and analysts this week, citing changes to the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Particularly, if anybody’s been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on. That could be quite daunting,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during the call. “So we think that’s going to make for an even more pleasant experience.”
On the call, Chapek also noted that the theme parks had already begun increasing the number of visitors allowed in, based on looser parameters ushered in by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Guests at Walt Disney World will be allowed to go maskless if they choose while in outdoor common areas and at pool decks, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.
The CDC said May 13 that people fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 could participate in most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday.
However, the CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in a variety of outdoor scenarios including dining outside or during crowded outdoor events “like a live performance, parade, or sports events” if they are unvaccinated.
The announcement from Disney came shortly after its competitor, the nearby Universal Orlando Resort, announced it was no longer requiring visitors to wear masks outdoors. The Comcast-owned
Universal Orlando Resort includes the Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks.
Recently, the Orange County Health Department had also introduced more relaxed rules surrounding COVID-19 protocols businesses must follow — Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort are located in Orange County.
Disney and Universal Studios did not immediately return requests for comment.
How does the new mask policy work?
Face masks are now optional for visitors when they are going through outdoor common areas, including the entrances to Walt Disney World’s four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
But Disney guests must wear their masks when indoors — including on rides, in theaters for shows and in gift shops. Walt Disney World specifies that masks must be made with at least two layers of breathable material, fully cover the nose and mouth and be secured with ties or ear loops. Face coverings can include a solid plastic panel to allow for the reading of lips, but the plastic must be tightly attached to the fabric. Bandanas, neck gaiters and face coverings with mesh material are not allowed at the theme parks.
Guests must put on their face masks before joining the queue for a ride, even if that ride’s queue normally begins outdoors — though it’s unclear how the policy would work if long lines stretch far into what would normally be considered a common area outside. These rules are the same at Universal Orlando, and at both resorts guests must provide their own face masks.
The policies apply to all visitors, regardless of their vaccination status. An executive order signed by DeSantis this month prohibits businesses, schools and government entities from requiring anyone to present proof of being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Theme parks have loosened other COVID-19 protocols
Theme parks in Florida already began reducing some of the protocols that workers and visitors were required to follow since they reopened last summer.
Earlier this month, Walt Disney World, SeaWorld
and Universal Orlando phased out temperature screenings that workers and visitors used to have to go through before entering any parks.
SeaWorld and Universal have also reduced the requirements regarding social distancing in their parks, only requiring three feet of space between parties rather than the previously recommended six feet.