Anyone who wants to visit California's Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resort in Florida must wear a face mask indoors again, as cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant continue to climb in both states.
The entertainment giant updated its health guidelines late Wednesday to include mandatory face masks for all guests, ages 2 and up, starting Friday, no matter their vaccination status. Visitors must also wear a mask while riding on the various modes of transportation within the park, according to the most recent guidelines.
"Beginning July 30, face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) while indoors and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status. This includes upon entering and throughout all attractions," Disney posted on its website. Masks remain optional for guests outdoors, the company noted.
Disneyland and Disney World reopened in April and July, respectively, after being closed for more than 13 months and losing billions of dollars in ticket and concession sales. The new mask mandate at the theme parks comes a few weeks after California and Florida began experiencing elevated Delta variant cases.
The Delta variant is overwhelmingly the dominant strain across the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It now accounts for "83% of sequenced cases" CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a July 20 hearing before the Senate.
California has averaged nearly 1,000 additional coronavirus cases daily, marking a 17% increase since late June, the Associated Press reported. Health officials in the state say the Delta variant is the leading cause of COVID-19 deaths in California. The highly contagious strain has also shut down Hollywood movie productions and return-to-office plans .
Rising concern in Florida
In South Florida, where weekly reports from the Florida Department of Health reveal that the rate of COVID-19 cases is rising while the number of people getting vaccines is dropping. That's causing concern among public health experts.
Aileen Marty, an infectious disease specialist at Florida International University, told CBS Miami that the Delta variant is "far more contagious and produces more severe disease, behaviors that drive transmission also drive the production of newer and potentially more dangerous variants, and our cases are rising."
Pandemic lockdowns have devastated the amusement park industry, causing an estimated $23 billion in losses, according to Florida-based industry trade group the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Amusement and theme park employees lost at least $770 million in wages in 2020, the association estimated.
Disney is the first of the major U.S. amusement parks to bring back indoor mask-wearing requirements for all. Cedar Point amusement park in Ohio requires masks indoors only for guests who are not fully vaccinated. Six Flags doesn't mandate masks for any of its visitors but says it recommends face coverings be worn by the unvaccinated.
The unvaccinated must wear masks at Busch Gardens locations in Florida and Virginia and the same goes for indoor and outdoors at Dollywood in Tennessee. Masks are required for all guests ages 2 and over at AdventureLand amusement park locations in New York, Rhode Island and Iowa.