If you read any Facebook, Twitter or blog post that mentions face masks being required at Orlando theme parks reopening from coronavirus shutdowns, you’re bound to run into comments like these:

Anti-mask comments from readers on the Disney Parks Blog

Medical research has demonstrated that face masks and homemade face coverings can help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. While their use was not recommended outside health care settings in the early days of the outbreak, guidance changed as medical researchers learned how people without symptoms of infections were contributing to the virus’s transmission.

“Both presymptomatic and asymptomatic people can and do unknowingly spread the virus to others,” Dr. Aileen Marty, a professor at Florida International University who is an expert in the fields of infectious diseases, public health and mass gatherings, told Orlando Rising. “The CDC and multiple health agencies worldwide now strongly recommend the use of facial coverings to reduce transmission of COVID-19.”

Despite this evidence, face masks have become the latest symbol of the country’s partisan divide — and theme parks aren’t immune. 

Universal Orlando will require guests to wear face masks when its theme parks reopen to the public on June 5. Disney World has indicated it will do the same when its parks welcome guests again. The resorts’ respective shopping and dining complexes — Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk — already require masks. 

As illustrated by online comments, a select number of would-be guests denounce private businesses’ mask requirements as an invasion of their personal liberties, similar to confrontational customers refusing to wear masks in Florida grocery stores. 

Those claims do not appear to have any legal merit. 

“Our attorneys‘ general take is that this is similar to ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’ signs, that many businesses have, so they don’t see an immediate legal problem,” Gaby Guadalupe, spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, told Orlando Rising. 

Lawsuits are pending against mask requirements instituted by local governments in Seminole and Alachua Counties, but at the time of publication, similar suits have not challenged Disney or Universal’s own mandates. 

There is a common misconception that Florida’s 1951 anti-mask law in Florida forbids wearing face masks in public, even during a pandemic. But that statute, originally aimed at the Ku Klux Klan, was amended in 1981 to apply only to people wearing masks with the intent of committing a crime, intimidating others or violating their civil rights. 

Since neither the state of Florida nor Orange County have required the use of face masks, the most Disney or Universal are likely able to do is ask guests to leave if they don’t follow the rules. 

“We’re going to do our part, and we need our guests to do their part, too,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in a CNBC interview earlier this month. 

Of course, the lack of a statewide mandate also means theme parks can stop short of requiring masks. 

At Legoland Florida, for example, only employees will be required to wear masks when the park reopens on June 1. 

At Fun Spot America’s Orlando location, just across I-4 from Universal, face mask rules  are limited to park employees who handle cash or handle food and beverages — and guests with no face coverings were strolling the park when it opened back up on May 22. 

Legoland and Fun Spot have not responded to multiple requests for comment from Orlando Rising on their mask policies. 

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3 Responses

  1. Troy Hughes

    There are 2 things that are asinine here.
    1. Requiring masks….BUT….that is a choice that is allowable.
    2. People saying its a legal problem….shut up….it is not. Its a private business.

    I am all for private businesses being able to make a choice. Whether it be masks or cakes they don’t want to bake for their own religious reasons. I dont have to agree. But choice is what makes liberty desirable.
    So I dont want to wear a mask. State whatever name brand pop study you want, the truth is there are tons of independent studies that are inconclusive. You only see the one pop culture version. Just like there are tons of great songs out there you only hear what the big studios want you to hear. The independent studies are inconclusive or they all dispute one another. So that is my choice. It’s my choice to not want to go until they lift masks. Its my choice to roll my eyes at people. It’s your choice to roll back. I don’t care. We keep moving along. But we have choices. The only issue I have is masks required for those of us who already paid up front for the year. Hopefully universal recognizes the impact to annual pass holders and extends even further than just the closure period. I get it….so many people “finance” their annual pass and they could freeze payments but i dont agree with debt for frivolous items so i pay cash for things. Because they made a substantial change to the agreement they owe people. Freeze our passes until masks are lifted. Then restart. I lose nothing they lose nothing. If I walked up with my payment ready and they said “where’s your mask” I would have laughed and kept my money; thus the substantial change to an agreement.

    So I’m ok with choices but that is a different scenario. Don’t like it….don’t go. But prepaid visits should be considered by universal.

    • Mary Hinshaw

      There are two asinine things here:

      1) The Great Entitlement argument:
      Prepaid theme park ticket sales (including season passes) are not a guarantee of unrestricted use availability let alone in the exact same form as when you purchased it. The only “agreement” is they have the right to close or suspend any portion of the ticket’s use or any associated amenities without regard to purchaser. Universal owes guests nothing and it is only a guest consideration for extending them after the closure. Last season park pass I bought I don’t recall signing any binding contract at the time of purchase – other than a credit card receipt which only obligates me to the credit card company. A guest choosing to not follow their business rules are on the guest, not the business’ need to compensate for it. It’s not like they implemented a ridiculous rule that required a body part severing or something as stupid to enter. Besides, they couldn’t anticipate COVID impact any more than the guest could at the time of purchase.

      2) The Great Mask debate:
      So in essence you have no concern if you are unknowingly asymptomatic – because you chose to go to a store a few days ago and didn’t know the person behind you had exposed you since they chose to go to the same store at the same time and chose not not wear a mask or even social distance from you – and that you may be spreading the unusually contagious virus to others around you.

      You stated it very clear in one sentence…”I don’t care”. It is this mentality that sadly contributes to the spike in COVID cases and the complications of reopening the non-essential economy. No one needs to state any “name brand pop” study…it’s just common sense.

      So, by all means, PLEASE exercise your choice to not go to the theme park with a mask. The rest of us would greatly appreciate your generous and kind consideration of the fellow human beings around you to stay away. Be sure to let Universal know. Maybe they can choose to refund your paid ticket in guest consideration of your overwhelming good deed life choices.

      The sarcasm was my choice!