As mask mandates have been removed for Guests while outdoors in both theme parks, we have also seen temperature checks disappear and social distancing measures relax. Now, it seems that there could be another possible change on the horizon as Orange County, Florida, is going to be entering Phase 3 of Mayor Jerry Demings’s three-phased plan for rolling back mask mandates.
According to the plan, when in Phase 2, physical distancing of three feet (instead of six feet) was encouraged, and facial coverings were to be lifted for all people while outdoors. We saw both Universal Orlando Resort and Disney World adapt to these changes, but now, we are entering Phase 3 of Mayor Demings’s plan.
According to Phase 3, this level of the three-tiered plan could be entered once:
A) 70% of the population 16 or older received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination
B) And/Or Orange County would experience a 14-day rolling positivity rate of 5% or below.
Once these criteria are met, Orange County would be under the advisement to lift all face mask mandates and essentially return to “normal.”
In the latest COVID-19 report, we can see that there is now data from the Florida Department of Health shows that Orange County has hit the 14-day rolling positivity rate of 4.44%, which means that the county can enter Phase 3 of Mayor Demings’s plans.
Mayor Jerry Demings has not yet officially moved Orange County into Phase 3. Still, it is assumed that confirmation will arrive shortly now that the county has reached the goal of a positivity rate under 5%.
It seems that Mayor Jerry Demings has decided to wait another week before officially moving to Phase 3, as today, COVID-19 positivity rates jumped back to over 5%. As reporter Nadeen Yanes noted:
Despite the state data seen here – @OCFLMayor said the current rolling average positivity rate is 5.2% for the last 14 days. I’m told from @HealthyFla – Orange County is basing percent positive on PCR tests, the state data includes rapid tests as well. So numbers are different.
BIG // Dr. Raul Pino “Our county can’t be in a better position. It’s 5.2% – that’s only for PCR results, even with rapid it will be lower than that. So this week could be the first week are below 5% at the end of the week we will know what’s the status.”
BIG // Dr. Raul Pino "Our county can't be in a better position. It's 5.2% – that's only for PCR results, even with rapid it will be lower than that. So this week could be the first week are below 5% at the end of the week we will know what's the status." @news6wkmg https://t.co/2HChEA2NPh
— Nadeen Yanes (@NadeenNews6) May 19, 2021
What will this mean for Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort?
As we already mentioned, Universal and Disney have both made huge changes to their Florida theme park operations recently, and they made those changes with Orange County, Florida’s advice; however, they did so on their own timeline. Both theme park resorts are privately owned and have the ability to create their own mask mandates.
For example, even when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that theme parks could return to “normal” operations, Disney and Universal continued to wait for more guidance from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health officials before changing face mask or social distancing measures at their Florida theme parks.
Considering removing masks while outdoors has been recently implemented in both theme park resorts, it would be fascinating to see if either company chose to move to a fully mask-less theme park environment. As we reported, when we visited both Universal and Disney World this past weekend, we noticed that around half the Guests still continued to wear their masks, so it would seem that around half of the Guests are still not comfortable fully removing their masks. Or, at least, it may take a bit for Guests to get used to the changes.
For now, we will have to wait and see what Disney World and Universal Orlando respond with once Mayor Jerry Demings officially announced that Orange County is in Phase 3 of the reopening progress. Still, it looks like going “back to normal” operations is within reach for the Florida Disney and Universal parks.
What are your thoughts on Orange Country entering Phase 3? Are you ok with Disney World or Universal potentially removing all mask mandates?
This article has been updated since it was originally published.