When Walt Disney World reopened in July, four months after it had shuttered due to the coronavirus, it was “a whole new world” (Disney fans will get the joke) in terms of health and safety. Park attendance was capped. Rides, stores and restaurants were adapted. high touch areas were cleaned much more often than previously. Fireworks were canceled to avoid crowds. Most live shows were closed (and 90% of WDW’s Equity performers were laid off). Character meet & greets were switched to taking selfies with characters who were several feet away. Parades were scrapped in favor of surprise cavalcades, so guests wouldn’t line up on the streets. Handwashing stations were introduced. And, of course, masks were to be worn all the time.
Most of those precautions continue to this day. The only difference is that attendance, which had been capped at 25% is now capped at 35% (although on some days, queue lengths and crowds sure make it seems like it’s significantly more than that. But hey, they’re saying it’s 35% and Disney would never lie, right?). Well, they did make this change to their mask rule, but that’s really about it.
There are lots of people who are still going to Walt Disney World, even in the middle of a pandemic. However, there are plenty who are not and their reasons vary. The logistics of going to Florida during a pandemic can be difficult, depending on where people live. Some don’t feel safe in the crowds, even with capped attendance. Others just don’t think a Disney vacation, which is not cheap (psst! here’s how to decrease costs), is worth the money when so many aspects of the parks that are important to them aren’t available at this time. And others just don’t want to walk around the parks all day wearing a face mask.
Of course, as time goes on, more and more of those issues will resolve themselves. Travel will be less of a problem as more people are vaccinated against the virus. As more and more people get the COVID vaccine, those who are currently hesitant to be among crowds might be more willing to venture out and be around people. Similarly, as more people are vaccinated and it’s deemed less risky to have more people together in tighter spaces, attractions at Disney that tend to attract crowds, such as fireworks and parades, or that require physical closeness, such as meet & greets, will be able to start again. And we’re all looking forward to when shows at Disney will open, with talented people on those stages.
But masks are a biggie since they’ve been proven to be one thing that protects us from each other’s #coronacooties. That’s important, especially when we’ll have many who can’t get the COVID vaccine because of specific medical conditions, or who won’t because…well, they just won’t. I dunno. So that was a big question…when will masks be able to go away at WDW?
Disney CEO Bob Chapek gave us a hint during the company’s recent first-quarter earnings call.
Chapek said that although he thinks some form of social distancing and mask-wearing will remain in place at Disney throughout 2021, he believes they won’t be needed by sometime in 2022.
The CEO continued that with the COVID vaccine possibly being available for anyone who wants one by April of this year could be a “game-changer” for how and what Disney’s theme parks do in terms of response to the virus.
“Will there be some overlap until we know that we have hit herd immunity? Sure there will,” Chapek said “Do we also believe that we’ll be in the same state of six-feet social distancing and mask-wearing in ‘22? Absolutely not.”
So there you go. Fingers crossed for maskless parks sometime in 2022, Disney travel friends!
Feature Photo: Disney
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary