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BREAKING: Disney World Ending Most Face Mask Rules

Walt Disney World will soon be ending its indoor face mask rule for fully vaccinated guests in most locations! This post offers details on the dropping of health safety protocol, what else has changed, exceptions to the dropping of these rules, our commentary, and quick answers to frequently asked questions about implications for the Dining Plan, FastPass+, fireworks, character meet & greets, and more.

To quickly recap, this move by Walt Disney World comes two weeks after Universal Orlando similarly dropped indoor face mask requirements for the fully vaccinated and ended enforcement of rules. It also comes one week after Mayor Jerry Demings “State of the County” press conference during which he announced that Orange County will enter the third and final phase of the reopening plan.

Orange County has essentially returned to normal in terms of health safety protocol. The state of emergency is over, and there is no face mask mandate for anyone, nor are there physical distancing rules for any businesses in the county. As has been the case previously, this paved the way for Walt Disney World to relax its health safety protocol…

Walt Disney World is now following Orange County’s guidance and making changes to its “Reopening & Update Experiences”, significantly modifying its health safety protocol.

Here’s the next text on that page, which adds several paragraphs above the “Guiding Principles” section that describes current rules…

Within our communities, we’re encouraged that COVID-19 guidelines have been adjusted and eased by public health and government officials, paving the path for many businesses and industries to take positive steps forward.

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.


Beginning June 15, 2021 you will start to notice the following changes at Walt Disney World:

FACE MASK RULES: Face coverings will be optional for fully vaccinated Guests in most areas. Face coverings will still be required of all Guests on Disney transportation, including Disney buses, monorails and Disney Skyliner.

While we will not require proof of vaccination, we expect Guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations, and upon entering and throughout all attractions and transportation. Guests must observe current policies on face coverings until June 15.


PHYSICAL DISTANCING: We will be relaxing physical distancing guidelines for Guests. This will be visible in places like queues, shops, restaurants, attraction boarding, transportation and our theaters.

It’s important to remember that some experiences and entertainment may still be operating with limited capacity or may remain temporarily unavailable. We’re not quite ready to bring back everything yet, but we are optimistic and look forward to the day when Disney pals and princesses are able to hug once again.


CLEANING: We will continue the high standards for cleanliness and sanitation we’ve always set for ourselves. Cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer stations will still be available.

We encourage people to get vaccinated.

Our Commentary & Answers to Common Questions

Why won’t Walt Disney World be asking mask-less guests whether they’re fully vaccinated? 

For one thing, that’s prohibited under Florida law and other businesses have already lost high profile battles over it.

For another thing, virtually no businesses anywhere–even in other states–are differentiating between vaccinated and unvaccinated guests beyond the honor system policy. It’s simply not worth the hassle and headache. It would be asking a lot of Cast Members at a time when there’s already a labor shortage and frontline employees everywhere are at about their wits’ end. This is why the new rule is, essentially, “there is no rule.

Why isn’t ___ back? When might it return?

If you want to save yourself some time and not read the remaining questions and answers here, staffing–or a lack thereof is probably the answer to your first question and when more Cast Members have been hired and trained is probably the answer to the second question.

I don’t mean to sound glib. However, a shortage of Cast Members is the single biggest explanation for everything Disney is not doing right now.

What does this mean for FastPass+ return?

With physical distancing relaxed and attendance limits increased, we’re seeing this question more and more. The short answer is that we haven’t heard anything recently, but don’t expect it to return in the near term. FastPass+ lines are already in use for select guests, but fully restoring the service would require more staffing–that’s an issue until around late June.

There are other complicating factors unique to this, which are covered at length in When Will FastPass+ Return to Walt Disney World? Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the lack of FastPass in the immediate future–Disney is also increasing attraction efficiency, which will help with wait times. June and July are going to be a different story, though.

When will Walt Disney World increase restaurant capacity?

When Walt Disney World relaxed physical distancing, the rule change specifically stated “six-feet distancing measures will continue in all dining locations.” This could be interpreted as Walt Disney World erring on the side of caution, and that certainly may be true. It might also be good for appearances, but dictated by practical operational realities.

Again, staffing is a huge problem right now for restaurants. We’ve done several meals recently where numerous tables were unfilled (beyond those deliberately left open) and many third party restaurants are offering huge signing bonuses in a desperate attempt to attract employees.

The good news there is that Walt Disney World announced the return of the College Program in Summer 2021. These participants will begin in mid-June and should be trained by the end of that month. New College Program participants could help ease the burden on those restaurants, allowing Walt Disney World to increase capacity at restaurants–and open more locations.

Does this mean the Disney Dining Plan will be back soon?

See above. Restaurant capacity is a necessary prerequisite for the Disney Dining Plan being brought back.

For much more extensive commentary, see our newly-updated When Will the Disney Dining Plan Return?

What about fireworks?

We’d say there’s a 90% chance of one fireworks show being back by July 2021 (or earlier). There’s about a 50% chance of two fireworks shows being back by that time.

See our last Walt Disney World news & rumor roundup for more details. Since that post, both Epcot Forever and Harmonious have been seen testing by guests at the Crescent Lake resorts.

Character meet & greets?

We would not expect non-physically distanced character meet & greets to return anytime soon. To the contrary, this will likely be one of the last things to go back to normal. Possibly not until 2022.

It’s entirely about perception and practicality. Disney cannot and will not mandate that performers are vaccinated, and it’d be a bad look to allow a potentially unvaccinated performer to hug a child who cannot yet be vaccinated. Disney also cannot reasonably dictate that kids don’t touch the characters; that’s not a realistic rule.

The actual risk of such a scenario might be virtually nonexistent based on the brief exposure time and the “layers” separating the fur characters from the child, but so much of what Disney is doing and has done is about optics rather than safety.

Buffets?

At this point, there is no compelling scientific reason to not bring buffets back at this point. Buffet lines could have the same physical distancing markers as queues for those fleeting encounters. Given that fomite or surface transmission is exceedingly rare and unlikely, handling the serving utensils or being near communal food does not present any meaningfully degree of actual risk, although there’s undoubtedly still the perception it does.

Again, perception is everything. As such, we don’t see buffets coming back this summer. Perhaps later in the year if all hygiene theater ends, but companies will want to retain the appearance of some safety measures even after the most meaningful ones have been dropped. Conversely, the absence of things like buffets and playgrounds might be frustrating and almost nonsensical, but they’re far less impactful on the overall guest experience than outdoor face masks. That’s a trade-off we’ll happily accept!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Thoughts on Walt Disney World relaxing its face mask rule outdoors? Do you agree or disagree with the swift relaxation of rules? Surprised by Disney’s quick rule change? Pleased or displeased by the decision? Think Walt Disney World has more plans to return to normal? Expectations with the Dining Plan, FastPass+, fireworks, meet & greets, or anything else? Please keep the comments civil. This is not the place for arguing about efficacy, politics, and so forth–all such comments will be deleted, irrespective of perspective. You are not going to change anyone’s mind via the comments section on this blog, nor are you going to change Disney’s rules or public policy. If you wish to contest this, rather than yelling into the internet abyss, have your voice heard in a meaningful way by contacting Disney or your local elected officials.

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