When Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando reopened after months-long closures, all Guests and employees (Cast Members at Disney and Team Members at Universal) were required to wear masks at all times, except while actively eating or drinking in designated dining areas.
Those mandates lasted for about one year, and in May, both Disney and Universal dropped their outdoor mask mandates, and their indoor ones ended in June. These lifted restrictions applied to vaccinated employees and Guests, but both theme parks relied on the honor system and did not ask Guests to provide proof of vaccination.
Now, a new COVID-19 variant, known as the Delta Variant, is making its way throughout the country. Even vaccinated individuals can catch it, and while they will most likely only feel under the weather for a little while, they will still feel its effects. The state being hit the hardest by this new Delta variant is Florida, which has seen a massive uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent days and weeks.
In the past week, about 20% of new COVID-19 cases originated in Florida, and the state has seen almost a doubling of cases recently. In just over one month, there has been an astounding 73% jump in positive COVID cases. Just under half of Florida is fully vaccinated, and about 55% have received at least one dose. Health officials are calling this surge the “Pandemic of the Unvaccinated” and Florida has, unfortunately, become the epicenter in the U.S.
With this massive spike and a new, dangerous, highly contagious COVID variant, it begs the question, will Disney World and Universal reinstate their mask mandates?
The State of Florida has not mandated masks, but businesses, including Disney and Universal, took it upon themselves to enforce the use of face coverings. Both the Walt Disney World Resort and the Universal Orlando Resort have been following CDC (Center for Disease Control) Guidelines when it comes to theme park health and safety procedures. When Florida’s rate of positivity dropped below 5%, mask mandates were lifted. However, the positivity rate has jumped to over 12% and is still climbing.
When it comes to its current health guidelines, the Disney World website currently reads:
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.
Universal Orlando’s website contains similar guidelines and says:
In accordance with CDC guidelines, face coverings are no longer required for fully vaccinated guests, indoors or outdoors. While we do not require proof of vaccination, we do expect those who are not fully vaccinated to wear face coverings while indoors. We encourage all guests to keep a safe distance between travel parties, and we remain focused on maintaining the highest cleanliness and sanitization standards.
At the time of publication, the CDC has not made any changes to its mask guidelines, which still state that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks, except where required by federal or state law. Both Disney World and Universal Orlando rely on the honor system when it comes to Guests wearing masks in the theme parks and are not asking any Guests to provide proof of vaccination. However, U.S. COVID cases have increased about 70%, with hospitalizations and deaths also increasing.
It is possible that the CDC could see fit to once again change its guidelines to state that all individuals should wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Los Angeles County in California has already changed its mask guidelines to require everyone to wear masks while indoors, including when visiting indoor locations at Universal Studios Hollywood. That change went into effect on July 18, with no end date given.
Disney World has not made any comments as to whether or not it is considering changes to its mask mandates at this time. A Universal Studios spokesperson told Forbes magazine in an email that it is not currently considering changing its mask policy. However, if the CDC changes course, the two Resorts could follow suit, or they may make the changes independent of any guidelines. Inside the Magic will keep readers updated if any changes are made to the parks.
Do you think Disney and Universal should reinstate mask mandates? Let us know in the comments!
CLICK HERE to book your Disney or Universal Studios vacation with our friends at Academy Travel — an Earmarked Diamond travel agency that can provide you with a free quote today!