Florida & California Requiring Face Masks

We’ve discussed Walt Disney World’s mask requirement in the parks and around resorts at great length (with hundreds of you offering your feedback). Likewise, Disneyland recently confirmed that it would mandate face coverings for guests and Cast Members despite its Orange County rescinding an order requiring masks.

Now, Governor Gavin Newsom issued new guidance in conjunction with the California Department of Public Health requiring that face coverings be worn in common and public indoor spaces and outdoors when distancing is not possible, with limited exceptions. This is being done to limit the release of infected droplets when talking, coughing, and/or sneezing, as well as to reinforce physical distancing.

This comes a couple of days after Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings issued a public plea for Floridians people to wear masks, and said he was considering whether to write an executive order requiring people to do so to avoid a second shutdown. In this post, we’ll share further details on the latest developments in California and Florida, plus the potential impact on Walt Disney World and Disneyland…

California’s new mask requirement comes as the state further relaxes stay-at-home restrictions, with more businesses slated to reopen this Friday. The number of confirmed infections in California continues to hit new highs, with 4,291 new cases on Wednesday, a new single-day record and the first time the state has broken the 4,000 barrier since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In a statement, Newsom said that California is “seeing too many people with faces uncovered – putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease.” Per Newsom, “California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”

Meanwhile in Florida, Orange County has set new single-day records for cases six of the last seven days, as numbers have steadily increased. Central Florida has now surpassed 10,000 cases, and Florida as a whole reported an additional 3,207 coronavirus cases Thursday, by far the largest daily increase yet and hundreds more infections than the previous record.

According to a new model by scientists at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, Florida has “all of the markings of the next large epicenter of coronavirus transmission.” While Florida is seeing a record-high seven-day average, it’s not all bad news–hospitalizations in Orange County remain low (once you get past the headline), and although they have experienced a “slight uptick” in the number of patients, local hospitals report no alarming numbers so far.

While not alarming, all of this is definitely concerning as Florida continues the process of reopening, and remains largely devoid of tourists. Central Florida leaders are not the only ones concerned with the growing caseload and how that could stymie efforts to reopen the economy.

In a potential preview of what could be in store for other tourist destinations, the Florida Keys will now require masks until June 2021, with a civil fine of $500 for those who violate the ordinance. Of course, that could be rescinded before next year, but it’s nonetheless a sign that you might not want to get your hopes up about Disney rolling back the mask rule by this fall or winter.

UPDATE: About 10 minutes after this post was published, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings held a press conference at which he issued an executive order requiring every person in the county to wear a mask, an effort to try to stem a second wave. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the county order will cover the city as well, and urged residents to wear masks even in the Florida heat and humidity.

This order will go into effect on June 20, 2020 and remain in place indefinitely–Demings stated “we’re buying time with this measure…until a vaccine or cure for the virus is found.” Masks must be worn in public places, but people are permitted to take off the mask while eating or drinking. Employees of businesses must wear a face covering at all times. There will not be any criminal sanctions for violations at this time, but those could be added if Floridians don’t comply with the order.

Orange County’s new order has minimal impact on Walt Disney World, as masks are already required at Disney Springs and will soon extend that rule to apply to its theme parks and resorts. Even in the absence of such an order, it’s the company’s prerogative to enact rules beyond what’s required by law as a private business.

It’s the same idea behind a convenience store, gas station, or even a theme park having a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” sign even though the government doesn’t make you cover your feet. Outside of the Imagination Lounge (which is basically the wild west), no one seems bothered by the footwear requirement in the parks.

Walt Disney World and Disneyland proactively made these rules at the behest of local public health expert guidance and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance. This strongly encourages cloth face coverings or masks in public, at events or gatherings.

Per the CDC, cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. These are not surgical masks or respirators—they’re not personal protective equipment. Cloth face coverings are for the benefit of others, and are mutually beneficial when worn by both parties to an interaction.

In accordance with the CDC and other health experts, the rules at Disneyland and Walt Disney World apply to all guests ages 2 and older. However, the parks plans to offer “relaxation zones” where guests will be able to remove their face masks for relief from the summer heat, away from crowds and foot traffic.

Otherwise, guests must wear masks at all times, with limited exceptions for eating and drinking or swimming. Face coverings must even be worn in pool areas and while entering and exiting restaurants.

While California’s new guidance allows medical exemptions, Walt Disney World and Disneyland have not yet addressed whether guests with disabilities, medical, or mental health conditions will be required to wear masks. Universal is allowing limited exemptions, and it seems likely that Disney will follow suit and allow modified face masks to the extent feasible (think face shields).

However, it’s worth noting here that the ADA requires no “reasonable accommodation” for face masks, as doing so would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others. This comes directly from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The basis for this is that cloth face coverings protect other people from a wearer who is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Meaning that these masks are not PPE, but rather for the benefit of others, and are mutually beneficial when worn by both parties to an interaction—which means that guests wearing masks help protect Cast Members.

This is the problem with simply allowing people to choose whether or not to wear masks. The person making the decision is not the one who will suffer the consequences of their action. (Which is why Cast Member unions fought for masks in the first place–to protect employees.)

Recent research by the University of Cambridge shows that even homemade masks can prove 90% effective at preventing transmission, and a policy of total face mask adoption can still prevent a second wave.

Moreover, both Hong Kong and Japan adopted near-universal masking on their own–and didn’t do much else in terms of prophylactic measures–and have fared much better than the United States. Even with the denser populations, congested mass transit, and relatively lax restrictions, both have seen far fewer cases and hospitalizations than other nations.

Ultimately, this development out of California (and potential change in Orange County, Florida) has minimal impact right now since Walt Disney World and Disneyland both already planned on requiring masks. However, it could be more significant down the road as it means the mask requirement will remain in effect at last as long as mandated by local law even if the rule is unpopular with Disney’s guests.

State or county mandates could also have the effect of normalizing mask-wearing in Florida and California (doubtful) or at least shielding Disney from guest blame and making the practice more accepted as the temporary abnormal. There’s no sugarcoating the reality that wearing a mask all-day, every-day in the summer heat and humidity of Florida during a lengthy Walt Disney World trip is going to be unpleasant. However, if that’s the difference between the parks opening or not–or worse yet, another lockdown or not–we say bring on the masks.

If you have questions about the closure, including policy changes and what we know thus far, please consult our Walt Disney World Reopening FAQ & Info, which should answer most inquiries. See our other WDW Closure & Reopening Updates for the latest news. If you’re planning a Walt Disney World trip, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.


Are you concerned about a second wave in Orange County (Florida or California) potentially causing another shutdown? Willing to wear a face mask if that’s what it takes to reduce the risk? Do you have plans to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, will you avoid the parks while these temporary rules are in effect? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

57 Responses to “Florida & California Requiring Face Masks”
  1. Aaron in DC June 20, 2020
  2. Carle J Welter June 20, 2020
    • William KEITH Beasley June 20, 2020
    • William KEITH Beasley June 20, 2020
    • William KEITH Beasley June 20, 2020
    • Used to be a Disney Family June 21, 2020
  3. Allen June 19, 2020
    • StudentMama June 22, 2020
  4. Maria June 19, 2020
  5. Becky June 19, 2020
  6. Maureen June 19, 2020
  7. Rebecca June 19, 2020
    • HCinKC June 19, 2020
  8. Lisa June 19, 2020
    • Tom Bricker June 19, 2020
    • Christi Brady June 19, 2020
    • Adam June 19, 2020
    • Maria June 19, 2020
    • Caroline June 20, 2020
  9. OleOleJose June 19, 2020
  10. Laura M June 18, 2020
  11. Aaron June 18, 2020
  12. Aaron in DC June 18, 2020
  13. Lou June 18, 2020
    • Kat June 18, 2020
  14. Heather Hockman June 18, 2020

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *