Walt Disney World Tightens Mask Restrictions and Closes Major Loophole

Walt Disney World welcomed fans back to the theme park last week, reopening for the first time since shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic back in March with a limited guest capacity and a slew of safety rules in place -- including the requirement of face coverings for all guests ages 2 and up. However, the mandatory mask mandate had one official exception for eating and drinking and now, Walt Disney World has had to make a major clarification to even that exception. Now, if you want to remove to eat or drink while at the theme park you'll have to be stationary while doing so.

Walt Disney World has officially updated their guidance on face coverings to limit removal of masks, noting that guests can remove them while swimming or dining, specifically noting that "you may remove face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you should be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing."

walt disney world face mask update
(Photo: Walt Disney World)

It's not exactly clear what prompted this clarification, though several sites devoted to Disney news, including Mickey Blog and Disney Matters, noted that some guests were using the eating and drinking exception as a loophole, carrying around food or drink without actively consuming it in order to just not wear a mask. It was reported that staff had begun stopping guests walking around maskless while eating and drinking and asked them to stay in place while doing so, something that is now official policy.

It's worth noting that Disney has introduced places called "Relaxation Stations" that are designed to give guests a place where they can take off their masks and relax briefly while maintaining proper social distancing. The station locations are marked on all maps and are spread out throughout the parks.

With COVID-19 cases spiking in Florida, it's unclear how long Walt Disney World and other public attractions will be able to remain open, though it's clear that the safety precautions -- including masks -- are going to remain. Disney Parks chairman Josh D'Amaro recently described the situation as a "new normal".

“We are in a new normal right now, so what's happening outside of the gates of Walt Disney World is our new world,” D’Amaro said. “I think you know we were one of the first theme parks to close, and we'll be about the last to open. And we spent every minute of every day thinking about how to operate in this new normal that we're in.”

“I’m exceptionally proud of this group in terms of what they've put together from a protocol perspective and being able to open in a phased and really responsible way,” he added. “I had a chance to walk Main Street just a few minutes ago. It feels really good in the park. So yeah, the world is a different place, but we feel really prepared to operate in this new environment that we're in.”

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Cover photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images.

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