Please note that no part of this article is intended to make a statement as to the efficacy of masks, or the efficacies of different types of masks, in any possible environment. This website takes no official stance as to best protocols for dealing with viruses, nor should this article be taken as such or as medical advice of any sort. Consult your doctor, local, state, and national recommendations for best practices.
It was a beautiful day for Cheerleading at the National Championship held in Walt Disney World’s immaculate ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex on April 27th, 2021. A flood of UCA Cheerleaders from all over the country was handled well by the cast members, and the attitude of everyone in sight was pleasant, accommodating. Everything had been planned out to make sure social distancing was in place, masks were on, and no potentially viral photos or videos of pandemic faux pas might make it online. Every so often a reminder would be announced over the sound system of the complex, gently prodding teams and fans that they must not congregate. From the time teams entered the gates until they stood two cheerleaders per circle prior to running on the competition mat, Disney and partners had planned this meticulously.
Yet still there were times in which people bunched up, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Friends who hadn’t seen each other in ages ran to hug one another. Fans ran into bottlenecks, as sporting events tend to create. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a strong attempt.
— UCA (@UCAupdates) April 27, 2021
Situations like this occur every day at Walt Disney World in the midst of a pandemic. Careful attention is taken to each queue for each attraction; guests are carefully kept distanced, even if that means routing queues through the lobbies of now-closed restaurants. But then when the ride is over, guests are often all dumped out together into a single mass. After all, the vehicle must be emptied, and the exit areas for attractions were never designed for social distancing.
With the United States Center for Disease Control updating their guidance for mask-wearing today, many people are beginning to wonder when Disney will update the mask mandates for their parks. Already they’ve relaxed the policy for taking photos, while at the same time making it more strict for eating and drinking. Now that the CDC has declared it safe for vaccinated individuals to go outside without a mask on, surely Disney will relieve guests of those coverings before a hot, hot summer. Right? After all, Florida has removed mask mandates long ago, and just today the state of Tennessee has done so in all but its largest cities.
So, as you might imagine, we’ve talked to quite a number of people familiar with Disney and their operations. We’d like to share with you what we believe are Disney’s future options for mask wearing based on our conversations. Let’s take a look:
First, we do not believe that Disney is likely to make mask requirements different depending on whether or not guests have received a vaccine. While this might make sense scientifically, it could create the perception of vaccine passports, which is a political hot potato. It might also create contentious situations between guests or between guests and cast members. It would be very difficult to implement a system to track those who have permission to remove their masks versus those who do not. They can (and will) do this for cruises, but Walt Disney World is far less likely… and perhaps not legally allowed to do so in the state of Florida.
Second, the next step that we believe Disney may implement is to allow guests who are sitting to remove their masks. Of course, this is predicated on the understanding that they must be socially distanced from individuals not in their group. When this change might come about, we’re not sure, and it could be that Disney skips this phase completely to go to the next stage. If Disney does make this change, we expect to see it in the summer.
I love these masks for the castmembers of Disneyland Resort 😍💙💙 https://t.co/05lCNLnXi6
— Disney Character Kingdom (@disneyckingdom) April 25, 2021
Third, at some point Disney is likely to shift their mask mandate to be one that only applies to individuals inside air conditioned areas. Already we know that the risk for viral transfer from one individual to another is much higher indoors than outdoors, especially due to current strains’ susceptibility to sunlight. It should be noted that Disney will likely need to create signage for such a change, so don’t expect this before the fall.
Finally, there will come a time when Disney can remove mask mandates. When that occurs will depend on whether there are new strains that cause us to take longer precautions, what new CDC guidelines may be released, vaccination rates and their efficacies against new strains, etc. Unfortunately, we do not think that Disney will be ready to roll back their mask and social distancing guidelines until after 2021, although we recognize we could be wrong given that it is dependent on real-world circumstances we can’t predict.
As for Disneyland Resort, that’s a separate issue from Walt Disney World. The politics of Florida and California could not be more different, and it’s almost guaranteed that this will have to influence Disney’s handling of the two resorts. They’ll also have to adapt based on facts on the ground on the west coast versus the east coast.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Would you feel safe with less strict mask mandates at Walt Disney World? Would you feel more safe? We’re interested in your opinions. And, as always, keep reading Pirates and Princesses for more information.
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.