ORLANDO (CBSMiami/CNN) - Walt Disney World and SeaWorld have changed their mask rules for guests following new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The Disney resort has announced that masks and face coverings for all guests will be "optional in outdoor common areas" at Disney World starting Saturday, May 15th. The exception being that guests "must wear face coverings from the entrances at all attractions, theaters or transportation and throughout those experiences," the company said.
So that means if you're walking down Main Street, U.S.A., you don't have to wear a mask but if you're riding Space Mountain, you'll still have to.
SeaWorld said it will no longer require face coverings for guests who are fully vaccinated, according to a statement obtained by The Sun-Sentinel. They added that they will not be checking for proof of vaccination but asked guests to comply with the revised policy.
SeaWorld employees, however, will continue to wear masks.
The changes come after the CDC said on Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances.
Universal Orlando Resort announced Friday that it was updating its Covid safety measures. Like Disney's new requirements, it says that masks are not "mandatory" while outdoors but are still "required in all indoor locations including shops and restaurants" and required at all attractions.
Disney's parks and resorts have been an important foundation of the company's media empire for decades. However, the division was hit particularly hard because of the coronavirus pandemic. Following a challenging year that brought extended closures and significant layoffs, the new mask rules, as well as increasing capacities, could have a significant impact on the parks' attendance heading into the vital summer season.
Disney generated more than $26 billion in sales at its parks division in fiscal 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, representing 37% of the company's overall revenue. Returning to those levels would obviously be a boon to not just the parks unit, but all of Disney.
"This is the next step in their recovery," Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, told CNN Business before the announcement on Friday. "They've built a foundation at the parks that they can expand upon. I don't think you're really going to see the result of that expansion in 2021, but you're going to see the beginning of it."
The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is the world's most-visited theme park, with more than 20 million visitors in 2018, according to a report by AECOM. The company has invested billions in its theme park division, opening new Star Wars lands in Florida and California in 2019.
Disney did not say if and when it would change mask guidance and safety measures at its other parks.
(©2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)
for more features.