All guests and employees will once again be required to wear face masks at all attractions and indoor locations around the Universal Orlando Resort starting Dec. 24, regardless of their vaccination status.

The change is being instituted as the more transmissible (though potentially less severe) omicron variant has become the dominant form of COVID-19 in the U.S. and Universal expects some of its largest crowds since the pandemic began.

Universal ramped down its mask requirements for guests in May, ending its outdoor mandate on May 15 and its indoor requirement two weeks later. When Disney World brought back its indoor mask mandate in July, as the delta variant fueled a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Central Florida, Universal did not follow suit. Rules for employees have shifted, however, such as having Halloween Horror Nights actors required to don face coverings.

No other Central Florida parks have recently announced any changes to their face mask policies. Despite widespread misinformation, some spread by former owners of Orlando theme parks, numerous studies have show masks to be effective in limiting COVID-19 transmission.

Demand for COVID-19 testing has surged around Orange County, Florida, with waits stretching to as high as three hours at one site at Barnett Park, according to the Orlando Sentinel.