Disney World announced it will be reducing physical distancing requirements, but promising a “gradual, phased approach,” unlike the quick shifts at other Florida theme parks. 

The updated physical distancing standards on the Disney World website now say:

Temporary adjustments are still in place to promote physical distancing. While we will reduce physical distancing measures for guests across many areas with a gradual, phased approach, six-feet distancing measures will continue in all dining locations, merchandise stores and in areas where guests can temporarily remove their masks.

Orange County, Florida recommended immediately halving physical distancing to three feet starting April 28. Universal Orlando was the first theme park to adopt that standard on May 6, followed shortly thereafter by SeaWorld Orlando. Legoland Florida in Polk County will also reduce recommended distancing to three feet starting May 14

For Disney World, it’s the biggest change yet to the COVID-19 rules that have remained largely the same since its theme parks reopened last July. Capacity throughout the parks remains limited and all guests ages 2 and older have to wear face masks, only removing them while dining or for certain photo opportunities. 

Florida parks have not gone as far in removing restrictions as their counterparts elsewhere. Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio now only require masks for guests under the age of 10 — which doesn’t match guidance at the federal level. Those parks have also interpreted recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, which said fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks except in crowded settings, as applying to all guests at theme parks, regardless of vaccination status. 

Reducing distancing will reduce the physical length of ride queues, which have often spilled out into walkways and backstage areas. It also solves a different problem among visitors: guests who were ignoring the distancing markers.

The Orlando Sentinel relayed comments from several Universal and Disney visitors who said other guests were not abiding by the six-foot distancing rules, creating some tense moments. Dr. Michael Teng, an associate dean at the USF Health College of Medicine, told the Sentinel that outdoor spaces at parks were a low-risk environment for COVID-19 transmission. 

“If you’re outside walking around, even if it’s a little crowded, the actual relative risk is pretty low because you’re walking around and there’s wind blowing,” Teng said

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