Ask anybody who has been to any open theme park in the last year and they'll tell you it's a somewhat strange experience. Usually theme parks are about forgetting the real world and losing yourself in the storytelling, but it's difficult to forget the real world when everybody is wearing a face covering and social distancing. One of the big questions that we've all had is just how long it's all going to last. When will guests be able to visit Walt Disney World without wearing a mask, or be able to visit Disneyland at all. While it's difficult to know for sure, Disney CEO Bob Chapek says the company expects current rules to last through the end of the year, but to be largely or completely over early next year.
The Walt Disney Company held its Q1 quarterly earnings call on Thursday evening and during the conference call Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked when all the various pandemic restrictions might go away. With vaccines being administered, the end is certainly in sight, but it's going to be difficult to judge just when distribution is wide spread enough to make relaxing the rules possible. Chapek says the current expectation within Disney is that these rules will remain in place for the rest of 2021, but they'll be phased out early next year. According to Chapek...
We have no doubt when we reopen in parks that were closed, or increase the capacity, that we'll have some level of social distancing and mask wearing for the remainder of this year. That's our expectation. I believe that Dr. Fauci said earlier today that he hopes that there's vaccines for everyone who wants them by April this year. If that happens, that is a game changer and that could accelerate our expectations and give people the confidence that they need to come back to the parks. Will there be some overlap until we've hit heard immunity, sure there will. But do we also believe that we'll be in the same state of six-foot social distancing and mask wearing in '22. Absolutely not.
Bob Chapek says that if vaccine availability becomes as widespread as some have hoped, that the wheels could begin to turn faster than anticipated, which could in turn mean safety guidelines cvould actually end this year, but right now the feeling inside Disney is that the era of masks and social distancing will continue through the end of 2021. Masks may end up being required inside the parks a bit longer than is technically necessary, but clearly the feeling is that it will be better to relax the rules late rather than to do so early.
There's a possibility things might happen faster, and of course, there's also the possibility that things could happen slower. At the same time, it's nice to hear somebody, who has been working with medical professionals on this very topic, give some sort of an idea as to when this might all be back to normal. The idea that mask wearing was just going to go on for the foreseeable future was exhausting. The idea that this will all be over in less than 12 months feels much more possible, like we can make it. And then we can go to Disneyland.