UPDATE: The updated mask policies are officially in effect today, Saturday, May 15.
Responding to new CDC guidance, which states that fully vaccinated persons can discontinue wearing masks and social distancing, Disney theme parks announced Thursday that they will alter their mask policies and raise capacities.
Walt Disney World in Florida had already begun relaxing some of its COVID-related protocols this week to align with updated public health guidance by beginning a phased reduction of social distancing measures, eliminating temperature checks and permitting visitors to remove masks to take photos outdoors.
During the company's second-quarter earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek called the CDC's latest announcement "very big news for us" and said that Disney theme parks had already commenced increasing capacity. According to Forbes, Chapek also said that he, "think[s] you're going to see an immediate increase in the number of folks that we're able to admit into our parks."
Also Thursday, a CNN correspondent tweeted out a Disney spokesperson's statement, which called the CDC's updated guidelines "extremely positive news" and confirmed that the parks would implement them "as soon as is practical."
Chapek also implied that the parks' mask mandates might be lifted as early as this summer, and opined that eliminating the need to wear masks would be a "bigger catalyst for growth in attendance" and "make for an even more pleasant experience."
In the near term, any easing of mask requirements would likely only apply to Walt Disney World in Florida, as California's Disneyland Park is still subject to the state's wider mask order. Disneyland is also limited by statewide restrictions to 25 percent capacity through June 15.
Since Florida dropped its mask mandate and blanketly allowed businesses to reopen at 100-percent capacity earlier this year, there are no state-imposed restrictions on theme park attendance, but Disney is being characteristically cautious, nonetheless. Chapek did not disclose exactly at what capacity percentage Walt Disney World in Orlando is currently operating, but the cap was set at 35 percent as of January.
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