Editor’s note: This post has been updated with additional information.
Thursday, the CDC created shockwaves that have since been reverberating through the travel industry when it issued updated guidance that those who are vaccinated can safely cease wearing masks in most situations. Almost immediately, Hersheypark dropped its masking rules for guests who are fully vaccinated. Overnight, this meant that major Las Vegas casinos also stopped requiring vaccinated guests to wear masks. Things are now rapidly changing for the major theme parks, too.
On Friday afternoon, Universal Orlando announced that effective May 15 guests are no longer required to wear masks while outdoors at the theme park, with some important caveats, none of which include different rules for vaccinated versus non-vaccinated guests. By Friday night, Disney World had followed suit.
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As is reflected on Universal’s website, face coverings will still be required from start to finish while in an attraction queue or on a ride at Universal Orlando until guests have fully exited the experience. Masks are also still required in all indoor locations including shops and restaurants. Recently, social distancing requirements between parties were reduced from six to three feet and those rules also remain in effect.
As suspected, Disney World was not far behind in making the same move.
On Friday night Disney announced it would not require masks “in most outdoor areas in its parks, Disney Springs, and other areas of the Walt Disney World Resort” starting on May 15. This includes outdoor common areas and parks.
On Thursday, Disney CEO Bob Chapek called the CDC’s new mask rules “big news” for the company on an investor call.
During the call with analysts, Chapek expressed optimism that the change in mask guidance would benefit its theme park business. “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.”
He added that a relaxing of the rules regarding masks would provide an even more pleasant experience for Disney Parks guests, especially outdoor use during the hot summer season. It may also be considered good news for thousands of furloughed Disney workers, who Chapek said are being brought back to work. That’s another sign the company expects theme park attendance to bounce back in a big way as the country turns an important corner in the fight against the pandemic.
Related: Is now a good time to visit Disney World?
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week issued an executive order canceling remaining local COVID restrictions – including mask mandates in public areas, but privately-owned businesses can still require masks on their property.
On the heels of the Orlando theme park phasing out temperature checks at entry points, it comes as no surprise that the mask policy changed happened so quickly for Disney World.
Additional reporting by Summer Hull
Featured Image courtesy of Getty Images
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