The time has come. Just under a year has passed since Walt Disney World reopened the gates at The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, and it’s taken just shy of a year to start seeing the parks resemble normalcy. Over the past several weeks, theme parks have been a whirlwind of changes to rules and guidelines and now Disney World has followed Universal Orlando’s lead when it comes to another mask-wearing decision.
Last week, both Disney World and Universal Orlando made changes to their respective mask policies. At the time, Disney World had swapped it’s rules so those attending outdoor shows no longer had to mask up. Universal was a bit ahead of the House of Mouse and had already stated that fully vaccinated guests no longer needed to wear masks in the Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure Parks; by last week, Universal was making changes in terms of the rules related to when employees need to be wearing masks.
The latest update from Disney World? Disney World is now dropping the indoor mask mandate for vaccinated guests after having already relaxed on the outdoor masking front. The resort made the announcement ahead of weekend crowds hitting the theme parks. The announcement came with a comment from Disney noting:
We expect guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations.
Like Universal Orlando, however, Disney World is not requiring proof of vaccination when it comes to visiting the parks. At Universal Orlando, which I visited this past week, some guests are still choosing to wear masks some or all of the time, but anecdotally, most are not.
I think to give credit where credit is due, Universal Orlando has really been leading the charge when it comes to pandemic protocols. This was true a year ago when Universal Orlando reopened before Disney World and it’s still true now as Universal makes calls about changes to protocols such as mask-wearing first. It’s not a shot that Disney has been taking a more conservative approach and it’s worth noting that Orange County, where Disney World is open, only dropped its state of emergency and mask mandate recently. So the recent timing on these changes makes sense for the parks.
Still, for all intents and purposes, mask wearing is no longer a thing for guests in most places in Orange County theme parks. One place where Universal Orlando and Disney World still differ is that Disney World is still requiring masks on public transportation on the property. This includes services such as the monorail, the buses, the Disney Skyliner, etc.
The mask-wearing changes are among a slew of changes that have happened in the Florida-based theme parks in recent months. Temperature checks have also fallen by the wayside, as have certain social distancing guidelines in the parks. At Universal Orlando, one change I kind of miss (but probably saves the theme park a lot of money) is the fact the parks were staffing someone to hand out hand sanitizer in the days when pandemic rates were higher. That’s fallen by the wayside now, as well.
Still, while we are returning to some semblance of normalcy and while park capacity continues going up, some rules won’t be changing immediately. For example, if you are enjoying the parks in California you will probably need to continue wearing masks for a while. At least you have Avengers Campus to look forward to, though.