This article has been updated since it was originally published.
When Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando reopened to Guests over the summer, they implemented several new health and safety rules — including the requirement of wearing a proper face covering. These rules have been implemented to keep both Guests and Cast Members/Team Members safe while visiting the Orlando theme parks.
However, it seems as though Guests are continuing to fight this rule at both Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World.
According to Orlando Sentinel, fights are continuing to occur over the face mask rules at Orlando theme parks. “At Universal, two women shoved and punched each other in line at Revenge of the Mummy over how fast the socially distanced line was moving and if it was maintaining six feet of space,” they reported. “At one point during the skirmish, one woman coughed in the other’s face, according to an Orlando Police report, which said officers couldn’t determine who was the primary aggressor during the Sept. 12 incident.”
“The overwhelming majority of our guests have been great,’ Universal spokesman Tom Schroder told Orlando Sentinel. “They understand the need, support us by doing their part and tell us they feel comfortable while in our parks.”
Over at Walt Disney World, Orlando Sentinel reports that an elderly Hollywood Studios Guest argued with and was then attacked by two strangers from a larger family group. The family was not all wearing masks. The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Guests were seen maskless “after they took shelter from the rain by the bathrooms near the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, according to an Orange County Sheriff’s Office report.”
Per the report, one man punched the senior in the head, and then a woman from the family joined in, hitting the victim after he fell on the ground. The Guest, who was at least 65 years old, was not seriously hurt, according to the report, and the large family left the park before the sheriff’s office could arrest anyone. This incident occurred on September 17, 2020.
Back in August, an Orlando man was arrested for attacking, hitting and threatening to kill an EPCOT security guard who enforced the mask policy.
And in September 2020, one Guest was escorted out of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as he was shouting and incorrectly quoting Disney-Pixar’s A Bug’s Life to try and get other Guests to take their masks off with him. You can read more about this incident here.
Most recently, as of 2021, Orlando Sentinel reported that a security guard near Contemporary Resort was assaulted after enforcing the face mask policy.
The security guard at the Disney Resort hotel reminded the Guest to put on his mask before he entered the resort in February 2021. The Guest refused and then spat on the guard’s forehead.
The report continued:
“There’s never a day when I don’t have a story,” said one employee whose regular job was upended during the pandemic so she took a new assignment enforcing mask rules in the Disney Springs parking garages. “I cried the first week I started. It was not a good time at all. Imagine going to work every single day where people ridicule you.”
People get angry because they can’t wear a gaiter mask or don’t understand why Disney has mask requirements when the state of Florida does not, the employee said. She asked not to be identified over concerns about losing her job.
“I’ve had a guest literally get right up in my face and literally curse me out,” she said.
She was scared she was going to get punched if her supervisor hadn’t been there, she said.
“If I honestly didn’t have good coworkers, I would have already quit by now,” she said.
If you are planning to visit a public place, such as Walt Disney World Resort, please remember to practice safety and health protocols in order to keep yourself and others safe during this time. Keep your distance from other Guests, wear your appropriate face coverings at all required times, wash your hands often, try to use paperless payment methods, and cover your mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing.
Not Everyone Fights Over Mask Rules
On the flip side, these incidents are not the norm for a majority of theme park Guests, and not every Guest gives Cast Members and security a hard time. According to the Orlando Sentinel in 2020, Disney employee Jocelyn Lagor, who drives the Kilimanjaro Safari trucks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, said her expectations have been exceeded by Guests who follow the rules.
“I would definitely say it’s been surprisingly easier than I imagined,” Lagor told Orlando Sentinel.
“Body language is just as important as ever to communicate with our guests,” Swisher said. “We always lead with empathy.”
And more recently, in the March 4, 2021 article by Orlando Sentenial, Disney representative Andrea Finger explained that “most of the visitors who returned to the parks since the pandemic reopening are supportive of the safety rules”, which is great to hear.
Again, if you are planning to visit a public place, such as Walt Disney World Resort, please remember to practice safety and health protocols in order to keep yourself and others safe during this time. Keep your distance from other Guests, wear your appropriate face coverings at all required times, wash your hands often, try to use paperless payment methods, and cover your mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing.
The official Disney World face mask policy reads:
Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members, including those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming. You may remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing.
All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) must:
- Be made with at least 2 layers of breathable material
- Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the Guest to remain hands-free
At this time, based on guidance from health authorities, neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings.
Costume masks are also not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn, in alignment with our existing rules.
Face coverings may have an integrated transparent plastic panel to aid in viewing the wearer’s mouth. These face coverings must:
Be a fabric face covering featuring a solid plastic panel containing no openings that is attached to the fabric on all sides using tight knit stitching
Meet all face covering requirements listed above
The use of face coverings is not a substitute for physical distancing.
Find up-to-date information on COVID-19 and face masks on the official website for the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This article has since been updated to reflect the most up-to-date information.