Disney World is changing its masking rules at the end of this month, the company announced this week. The new Disney mask policy, which goes into effect July 30, states that all guests ages 2 and up will be required to wear masks in most areas throughout the Florida theme park, as well as Disneyland in California.
The new masking requirements apply to all guests “regardless of vaccination status,” according to Disney. Guests will have to wear masks while indoors and on transportation (including Disney buses, monorails, and the Disney Skyliner). “This includes upon entering and throughout all attractions,” Disney says. The only places where face masks will remain optional are outdoor common areas.
The Disney mask policy change is a reversal of the park’s progressively lax policy updates over the past few months. In June, the park lifted its indoor mask mandate for all guests, except for on transportation, as USA Today reported at the time.
The company’s decision to change course reflects the quickly shifting dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic—owing to the emergence of the highly contagious delta variant, as well as low and flatlining vaccination rates in many areas of the country. It also tracks with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC now recommends that fully vaccinated people continue to wear face coverings while indoors in parts of the country experiencing a significant spread of COVID-19. Masking could help vaccinated people reduce their risk of contracting a breakthrough infection from the more infectious delta variant, as well as spreading the virus to other people, the CDC says. While the COVID-19 vaccines do appear to still be quite effective at protecting against hospitalization and death due to the delta variant, continuing reports of breakthrough infections understandably have people spooked. As real-world data on vaccine efficacy are continuously being updated, the CDC says that there is a small chance that fully vaccinated people can get and spread the delta variant.
On a more local level, Disney is changing its mask policy as case rates in the surrounding county rise. This week, the mayor of Orange County (where Disney World is located) reenacted a state of emergency amid increasing case numbers and filling hospitals, the Orlando Sentinel reports (just two months after the previous state of emergency, first enacted in March 2020, was ended). On Tuesday, Orange County recorded 1,371 new infections, which is a single-day record for the county, according to the Sentinel. The level of virus detected in samples from the county’s wastewater system (which can help predict changes in COVID-19 prevalence) suggest cases will only go continue to rise, the Sentinel reports.
Disney began loosening its masking requirements in April when the park started allowing guests to briefly remove their masks while taking photos outdoors. In May, Disney made masks optional in all outdoor areas, according to USA Today, before lifting its indoor mask mandate in June. Under that policy, Disney said that it expected unvaccinated guests to keep wearing face masks in indoor areas, but that the company would not require proof of vaccination to allow guests to remove them.
Disney has not announced any other changes to their COVID-19 protocols, such as social distancing requirements and capacity caps, which stood at 35% in April and were set to increase throughout the year. The park continues to ask guests to self-screen for COVID-19, and its website advises visitors that when they enter the theme park, they “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.” Hopefully, a tighter masking policy will help reduce those risks.