Disneyland will soon end its face mask rule for vaccinated guests, following a similar policy change at Walt Disney World. This covers details on the dropping of health safety protocol, what else has changed, exceptions to changes, our commentary, and answers to frequently asked questions about implications for everything else.
This comes as California has ended its indoor masking requirement for the vaccinated after February 15, 2022, which is when the previous statewide order expires. This was put in place at the start of the Omicron wave, and then extended in January when case numbers and hospitalizations worsened.
California’s cases are now down 65% in the last two weeks, and roughly 80% since the Omicron peak in California. These numbers coupled with dropping hospitalizations have led state health officials to allow the current order to expire without another extension. After February 15, 2022, only unvaccinated individuals will be required to be masked indoors–and that rule will be based on the honor system.
In isolation, California letting its statewide mask mandate lapse has zero impact on Disneyland. California reinstated this blanket indoor mask mandate for the entire state back on December 15 after months of leaving the decision up to each county or city. At that time, Orange County did not have requirements for indoor masking. The statewide mask mandate superseded that lack of rule on the county level.
However, Disneyland did have an indoor mask mandate prior to the December mask mandate issued by the state. Back in August of last year, both Disneyland Resort in California and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida reinstated their indoor mask rules. That policy change occurred after both simultaneously dropped indoor mask rules back in mid-June for the fully vaccinated while also ending enforcement for everyone.
The return of indoor mask mandates to Disneyland and WDW was prompted by revised indoor mask guidance for the fully vaccinated from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC called on everyone to wear masks indoors if they live in counties with substantial or high levels of transmission. Orange County, California is one such place with a high level of transmission as of February 2022.
With that said, it’s also fair to point out that the current CDC community transmission metrics are outdated. These were determined prior to current vaccination and immunity levels, and Omicron further changed the equation–rather significantly–as it’s milder and less likely to lead to hospitalization. Our playbook to fight covid-19 is outdated. Here are 10 updates for 2022 explains why in greater detail.
In any case, Disneyland is now further relaxing its rules. Here’s the official NEW face mask rule from Disneyland.com’s Reopening & Experience Updates page, which adds a new paragraph above the current rules:
And the verbatim text of the change, in case the image doesn’t load or you can’t decipher it:
“Beginning February 17, 2022, face coverings are required for unvaccinated Guests (ages 2 and older) in all indoor locations, including throughout indoor attractions and indoor queues. Face coverings are required for all Guests, regardless of vaccination status, in certain indoor settings including Disney shuttles and in health settings, such as in First Aid. Face coverings are optional for Guests in outdoor areas.”
OUR COMMENTARY & ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS
Will Disneyland be verifying vaccination status of guests who don’t wear masks?
Why won’t Disneyland be verifying whether mask-less guests are fully vaccinated?
Virtually no businesses anywhere are differentiating between vaccinated and unvaccinated guests beyond the honor system policy. It’s simply not worth the hassle and headache. This is true even in California, which has taken a dramatically different approach to reopening than Florida.
The only exception to this is in areas with proof of vaccine requirements, like Los Angeles County. Disneyland isn’t located in LA–it’s in Orange County. The latter has not implemented similar any sort of vaccine verification ordinances, and almost certainly will not.
Without such a mandate, Disneyland is unlikely to to put the burden of verifying vaccination status on frontline Cast Members. That would be asking a lot at a time when there’s already a labor shortage and frontline employees everywhere are at about their wits’ end. This would lead to guests getting confrontational and a host of other issues that Disney probably wants to avoid.
Are there any risk mitigation alternatives to face mask rules at Disneyland?
Yes, and superior ones.
The highest-risk activity at Disneyland is dining indoors. That has remained true without regard for any past or present rule changes. The easiest way to reduce your actual risk is by eating in the parks’ many outdoor seating areas. If you’re comfortable with indoor restaurants, mask rules shouldn’t really change the equation much for you.
For those who are still concerned about face masks, the silver lining is that One-Way Masking Works. High quality masks are now widely available, so your safety is no longer dependent upon what others are doing–your health is in your own hands.
(Here’s one high-quality mask we recommend. We don’t use it anymore, viewing higher quality masks as superfluous for two relatively young and healthy adults who are fully vaccinated and boosted, but they’re a good option if your personal profile or risk tolerances differ from ours.)
If my kids are under age 5, and thus cannot possibly be vaccinated, will they be required to wear masks?
Even though it can reasonably be deduced that a small child is unvaccinated, Disneyland probably will not be policing whether they wear masks in light of the above.
Instead, all guests will be required to “self-attest” that they’re either vaccinated or will wear masks as necessary. To recycle a line from our Walt Disney World FAQ, I am expected to “self-attest” with Sarah that I’ll eat vegetables for dinner when she leaves me home alone. Butwhen the cat’s away, the mouse will play. (Or in my case, eat a lot of ice cream!)
Why is Disneyland ending the indoor face mask rule on February 17, 2022 instead of immediately?
Probably to give guests time to adjust and change their plans, rather than having this sprung on them once it’s “too late.”
Some families of unvaccinated children under age 5 are going to be uncomfortable with Disneyland’s latest change, and might want to cancel their vacations as a result–or head to Universal Studios Hollywood or other parks in Los Angeles County, which still have more stringent rules.
Accordingly, it makes sense to give them some advance notice to plan accordingly. Either way, it could be a rough couple days ahead of this transition, so please comply with current rules and be kind to frontline Cast Members. Remember, they do not make the rules that they enforce!
Why isn’t ___ back? When might it return?
Disneyland has far fewer “moving parts” than Walt Disney World, but the same general constraints apply. Namely, staffing—or a lack thereof is probably the answer to your first question and when more Cast Members have been hired and trained is probably the answer to the second question.
I don’t mean to sound glib. However, a shortage of Cast Members is the single biggest explanation for everything Disneyland is (not) doing for the next couple months. If anything, the California parks are already better positioned to scale up reopening efforts on a much faster timeline than Walt Disney World. Heck, Avengers Campus debuted roughly one month after Disney California Adventure reopened. Plus, Disneyland has already announced that most entertainment returns (sometime) in Spring 2022!
Why are there still mask rules on transportation?
This is beyond Disneyland’s control.
According to the US Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Order requiring the wearing of masks by travelers on conveyances when boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel. The Order defines “conveyance” as including “aircraft, train, road vehicle (including rideshares), vessel…or other means of transport, including military transport.”
At present, it appears that this is set to expire on March 18, 2022. It could be extended, as that has already occurred several times in the past. (We didn’t dig too deeply on this one, so take this explanation with a grain of salt.)