Universal Orlando is reducing its physical distancing requirement to three feet, matching an Orange County, Florida plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

The county announced on April 28 that it would lift COVID-19 mandates in three phases. The first, which went into effect immediately, cut recommended physical distancing in half. Theme parks, however, are free to institute their own rules separate from county and state guidance, as evidenced by parks maintaining face mask requirements and capacity limits. 

In an unsigned statement, a Universal Orlando spokesperson said: “The health and safety of our guests and team members is always our top priority. We continue to review the CDC guidelines and work with local health officials as we update our health and safety protocols. Based on guidance from government and local health officials, as of Thursday, May 6, we are implementing three feet of social distancing throughout our destination and are no longer conducting temperature checks. All other existing health and safety protocols will remain in place.”

Future rollbacks in Orange County’s COVID-19 mandates will depend on a combination of vaccinations and the region’s positivity rate. 

Disney World announced Wednesday that it too would be ditching temperature checks, starting with employees on May 8 and guests on May 16. Orange County Department of Health director Dr. Raul Pino recently said the checks were not necessary. 

Current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those kind of screenings “will not be completely effective because asymptomatic individuals or individuals with mild non-specific symptoms may not realize they are infected.”

Disney did not follow Universal in reducing physical distancing, however. Face mask mandates remain in place at both resorts. 

As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up, theme parks around the country have begun to phase out certain restrictions, though not always at the same pace. While Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio also announced they were getting rid of mandatory temperature checks, the parks went further than CDC recommendations by allowing any guest under the age of 10 to go maskless.

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