The global pandemic has been difficult for theme park fans. Because whatever your favorite park is, it spent at least part of 2020 closed, and likely isn't back to "normal" even now. However, while there seemed to be hope that normal was just around the corner a few months ago, we're now seeing surges in covid cases in many places, including Florida, the home of many popular theme parks like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. With the surges has come changes in recommendations from the Center for Disease Control, but while most all theme parks followed nearly identical rules the first time around, that isn't the case now. As Disney World and Universal in Florida have significantly different rules when it comes to masks.
The current CDC guidelines are that all people, regardless of vaccination status, should wear masks while indoors in public. Disney has continuously stated that it was following CDC recommendations, and this has been borne out by the actions taken at the theme parks. At Walt Disney World, and at Disneyland for that matter, masks are required for all guests while indoors, but are optional outdoors. At Universal Orlando Resort, however, masks are not required. The UOR website states that all guests are "encouraged" to wear masks, even the vaccinated ones, but there is no enforcement.
And at this point, Disney Parks are largely standing alone. The other parks in Florida, like Sea World and Legoland, are also only recommending masks indoors. Many other parks around the country, are also making masks voluntary unless there is a state or local ruling making them required. Universal Studios Hollywood does require masks indoors because the state of California does.
Previously the two major theme parks were in pretty close lockstep when it came to safety guidelines. In both the imposing of rules, and even in the relaxing of rules, we frequently saw one park make a change, and the other would make the same change in short order. However, it's now been a couple weeks since the CDC made the changes to its recommendations, so it's clear that Universal has made the decision to not change its policy regarding masks.
Since we don't get specific numbers from theme parks regarding attendance, it's impossible to tell if these different policies are having any real impact. It's possible that some might be more inclined to visit one park over the other because of the mask requirements. Of course, each park could be seeing both positive and negative consequences of their decisions. For every person who might decide not to go to Disney World because they don't want to be required to wear a mask, there may be a person who is more willing to go to Disney World than Universal simply because they know everybody will be masked indoors.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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