DISCLOSURE: This article will reflect my personal experience at Disney World, including my opinion on enforcement of COVID-19 rules on Disney property.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney theme parks have largely seen only gradual changes to its policies — if they’ve changed at all.
But that wasn’t the case with the quick end to Disney World’s requirement that guests wear face masks outdoors.
The announcement came late Friday night, just hours after rival Universal Orlando announced its own change. Plenty of guests and Disney employees learned of the change when they arrived at the parks Saturday morning.
“This all happened quickly, so we haven’t made all the changes we’re going to make yet,” one cast member told Theme Park Tribune at a mask relaxation station — which was still operating Saturday despite the fact that guests are allowed to remove coverings in most outdoor areas. We are not identifying the employee by name or location due to the fact that they were not authorized to speak to a reporter.
It took several hours into the day for new signage on mask rules to be added to park entrances.
The rules still require guests to wear face coverings indoors, as well as any outdoor areas that are part of the main queue spaces for any attractions (such as when you’re inside the gates of the Haunted Mansion). In outdoor extended queues, masks are not required. Cast members were reminding all guests of this rule when they entered the main queues for rides.
Theme Park Tribune observed that guests largely followed the rules on wearing masks indoors, on rides, and in those queue spaces. Outdoor mask use, now that it’s no longer required, became more rare as the weekend wore on; we estimated that more than half of guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios were still wearing masks outside, despite the change, when the park opened Saturday night, Perhaps as more guests learned the mandate was no more, they shed their coverings, because by mid-afternoon Saturday, outdoor mask wearers were a clear minority.
The change was most apparent at a very busy Disney Springs on Saturday night. Crowd levels and the lack of masks resembled pre-pandemic times. As a sign of how quickly the mask rules were changed, old signage was still present as guests were funneled through the Orange Garage.
At Magic Kingdom on Sunday, with guests now fully aware of the rule change, masks became somewhat of a rarity outdoors (your fully vaccinated author chose to keep wearing one).
Epcot was more of the same on Sunday evening.
All photos copyright Theme Park Tribune.