With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the rise and the Delta variant continuing to spread, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has amended its face mask policy. But what does this mean for major theme parks like Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California?
Here is what we know about the CDC’s face mask policy and recommendations and what we may expect Disney Parks to do next.
Back in May, the CDC changed guidance to state that fully vaccinated people can, for the most part, go mask-free. Following this update and additional updates to local guidelines, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California ended the face mask mandate, making masks optional for fully vaccinated Guests both indoors and outdoors on June 15 (but not checking Guest vaccination status or enforcing masks for anyone).
But now, the CDC is changing recommendations.
Earlier today, CNBC reported that the CDC is expected to recommend for fully vaccinated people to begin wearing face masks indoors in places with high COVID-19 transmission rates. The most recent update, per The New York Times, confirms that the CDC has officially changed guidance for vaccinated people; now, even vaccinated individuals are recommended to wear face masks in public indoor spaces (including schools, for example) in parts of the U.S. where the virus is surging,
Even though officials believe that fully vaccinated people account for a very small amount of COVID-19 transmission, some vaccinated people can still potentially transmit the virus to others, and they could be higher levels of the virus than previously thought. The Delta variant is also expected to cause another surge in virus cases this fall, so this new CDC update is coming ahead of that surge in hopes of slowing transmission in advance.
Keep in mind that, per reports, these are simply changes to the CDC’s recommendations, and it is up to state and local governments — and, if no mandates are enforced at the state or local level, individual businesses — to decide whether to institute mask mandates. However, if the counties in which theme parks are located decide to mandate face masks indoors again, then the theme parks could be required to change their policies on masks, as well.
We saw this occur a couple weeks back when Universal Studios Hollywood began requiring face masks for all Guests in all indoor locations after Los Angeles County reinstated its indoor mask mandate.
So, what are the areas with high COVID-19 transmission rates where the CDC is recommending masks to be worn? While there are many areas of the U.S. that are categorized as having high transmission, both Orange County, CA (where Disneyland is located) and Orange County, FL (where Disney World is located) are considered to be areas of high community transmission, per data released this past weekend. Throughout the pandemic, theme parks have also been categorized as locations where high levels of transmission can occur, meaning Disney World and Disneyland could be next to require face masks again, at least in indoor areas.
According to the CDC, any county in red or orange (high or substantial transmission) is one where masks should be worn indoors.
At this time, Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort have not made any changes to their face mask policies, nor have the counties in which these Resorts are located. However, as Disney has stated that the company is closely following guidance by the CDC and other health officials, it would not be surprising for the Disney Parks and Resorts in the U.S. to adjust the policies for face coverings, per CDC recommendations.
Regarding currently protocols and whether they may change, the Disney World website states the following, as of Tuesday, July 27:
As we have done since reopening, we’ve been very intentional and gradual in our approach to our COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Based on recent trends and guidance, Walt Disney World Resort will be making more adjustments to these measures, including physical distancing and face coverings. These measures may change at any time without notice.
We encourage people to get vaccinated.
Similarly, the Disneyland website currently states the following:
As we have done since we began our phased reopening, we’ve been very intentional and gradual in our approach to our COVID-19 health and safety processes. Based on recent trends and guidance, Disneyland Resort will be making more adjustments to these measures, including physical distancing and face coverings.
The following message is also displayed on the Disneyland website:
As always, our procedures may change as we continue to update our health and safety processes based on guidance from the state of California and local health officials.
The State of California and the State of Florida are not currently mandating face masks indoors.
We will update this article and our website as more information becomes available.
This article has been updated since it was originally published.