Disney says face masks now optional for vaccinated visitors at U.S. theme parks
Walt Disney Co. is ditching its mask requirement for fully vaccinated visitors at its Florida and California theme parks, starting Thursday. The shift comes as COVID-19 cases decline in many parts of the country and as major employers including Amazon, Tyson Foods and Walmart drop face-covering mandates for vaccinated workers.
Disney cited "recent trends and regulatory guidance" in easing its pandemic-related rules. Disney does not require proof of vaccination to get into its parks.
"We expect guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations, including indoor attractions and theaters," the company stated on its Disney World website. Disneyland in California announced similar steps, in line with new California guidance that had the state lifting its mask requirement for the fully vaccinated inside businesses as of Wednesday.
People will still need to wear masks on shuttles, buses and other forms of "enclosed" transportation at the parks, Disney's update stated.
Both Disney World and Disneyland had mandated masks indoors for guests ages 2 and older since July 2021, when mask mandates were re-instituted as the Delta variant spread.
The change in policy comes on the heels of Universal Orlando dispensing with its mask requirement, and as two big outdoor music festivals — Coachella and Stagecoach — drop all COVID-19 rules for their April events in Indio, California.
"As we prepare to spend an incredible weekend in the desert together, we are announcing that there will be no vaccination, testing or masking requirements at Stagecoach 2022," organizers tweeted Tuesday. The country music festival is slated for April 29 to May 1, with Carrie Underwood and Smokey Robinson among those scheduled to perform.
Coachella made the same announcement on its website for its annual festival to be held over two weekends, April 15 to 17 and April 22 to 24, with Billie Eilish, Harry Styles and Kanye West among the musicians scheduled to perform.
Still, the dispensing of the pandemic protocols came with a caveat emptor: "There is an inherent and elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19 in any public place or place where people are present and there is no guarantee, express or implied, that those attending the festival will not be exposed to COVID-19," the Coachella site stated.
Multiple states in recent days have moved to eliminate mask mandates as virus cases and hospitalization rates fall. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend masking in public indoor settings in high-transmission areas, which still includes most of the country.
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