Disney tweaks its policy again: Masks now optional for outdoor attractions at Walt Disney World

Aug 19, 2021

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Masks are no longer mandatory in outdoor lines, theaters or open-air attractions at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The theme park has adjusted its policy to leave it up to guests whether they wear masks while in line outside for rides and attractions.

The new rules, which go into effect on Thursday, Aug. 19, are Disney’s latest adjustment to its face-covering policies. Masks are still required for any visitors 2 and older (whether you’re fully vaccinated or not) whenever indoors, which includes indoor queues, attractions, restaurants, theaters and on transportation such as the monorail, the Skyliner and buses. The only exception is the ferry boats on the property.

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The timing of the change is curious, as Florida has become the epicenter for the latest COVID-19 surge in the U.S. The state set a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases last weekend with 23,903 residents testing positive last Saturday.

The relaxing of the mask mandate applies only to Disney’s Florida resort.

Disneyland in Anaheim, California, still requires masks to be worn on many attractions and in enclosed transportation vehicles, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings remain optional for all guests in outdoor common areas. There is no word yet on whether the company is considering easing the mask rules at Disneyland, too. The state of California also encourages — but does not require — guests to get tested or be fully vaccinated before entering.

Just last month, Disney officials announced that all its salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. who work on site must be fully vaccinated.

Disney World closed for four months last year at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. When it reopened, it did so with strict safety guidelines that involved masking, social distancing and crowd limits.

Disney last updated its masks rules on July 30, on the heels of updated guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that recommended face masks be worn when gathering indoors regardless of vaccine status in places experiencing a COVID-19 surge.

The Central Florida area, where Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort are located, has experienced a major upswing in COVID-19 infections that matches the peak caseloads experienced by the area during the earlier phases of the pandemic.

Walt Disney World first loosened its face mask policy, which had been in place since its July 2020 reopening, to permit guests to take their masks off while outdoors as of May 15.

Related: Masks are again required in Las Vegas

This policy was further loosened on June 15 when masks were no longer required anywhere on Walt Disney World property with the exception of while on Disney transportation (monorails, buses, etc.). Technically, those who were unvaccinated were still required to wear masks while indoors at Disney World, but in the absence of any verification of vaccine status, the vast majority of all guests ceased wearing face masks.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

For most of the last year following the parks’ reopening, Walt Disney World leaned heavily into pandemic precautions that included temperature checks upon entry, mandatory face masks except while stationary and eating or drinking, reduced capacity and clear social distancing between guests in lines and on attractions.

While nearly all of those precautions ended by mid-June 2021, Disney has regularly shifted mask policies in the following months as it tries to mitigate the surge triggered by the delta variant.

Additional reporting by Mike Avila. 

Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

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