Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida will reinstate indoor mask mandates for all theme park visitors and staff over concerns about a surge in covid-19 cases. The skyrocketing number of cases in the U.S. is due in large part to many Americans refusing to get vaccinated, as well as the more infectious Delta variant of the virus becoming dominant in the country.
Disney dropped mask mandates for vaccinated visitors in California and Florida on June 15 as covid-19 cases in the U.S. started to dwindle thanks to rising vaccination rates. But vaccinations have plateaued, and as io9 pointed out last month, Disney didn’t require people to show any proof of vaccination status—effectively operating on the pinkie swear system.
“We are adapting our health and safety guidelines based on guidance from health and government officials, and will require Cast Members and Guests ages 2 and up, to wear face coverings in all indoor locations at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort beginning Friday, July 30, regardless of vaccination status,” an unnamed Disney spokesperson said in a press release obtained by Deadline.
The company went on to explain that indoor masking includes everything from monorails and buses to Disney’s Skyliner gondola system.
“At Walt Disney World Resort, this includes upon entering and throughout all attractions and in enclosed transportation vehicles, including shuttles, buses, monorails and at Disney Skyliner,” the company continued.
Walt Disney World in Florida first closed on March 16, 2020 when the covid-19 pandemic started to hit the U.S. hard and reopened with limited capacity in July of 2020. Disneyland first closed its gates on March 14, 2020 and didn’t reopen again until April of this year.
Why will the new mask mandate be enforced only indoors? Perhaps because covid-19 spreads much less easily outdoors. But with many rides taking visitors both indoors and out, it’s going to be interesting to see how the mask rules with be enforced. For instance, is Splash Mountain an indoor or outdoor attraction. It’s both, which will likely lead to plenty of confusion for visitors and huge headaches for staff who are left to enforce the rules.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican and supporter of former President Donald Trump, has generally been against mask mandates, but has so far kept quiet about Disney’s updated plans in the state. Disney is an enormous driver of economic activity in Florida, and DeSantis is often deferential to the company, even when they conflict with his own politics.
Florida reported 16,038 cases on Wednesday and 92 deaths from covid-19. Just 48.6% of Florida residents are fully vaccinated against the virus, slightly below the national average of 49.8%.
California, the home of Disneyland in Anaheim, reported 8,598 cases on Wednesday and 29 deaths. Roughly 52.5% of Californians have been fully vaccinated.
As Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed out this week, the viral load of those infected with the Delta variant is roughly 1,000 times higher than previous strains of covid-19. And while the U.S. is seeing so-called “breakthrough infections” of covid-19 in vaccinated people, those who get the virus after being vaccinated are much less likely to become hospitalized or die of the disease.