In this post, we’re going to take a fresh look at face covering rule compliance in the last couple of months. In case you missed what’s unquestionably the most controversial reopening policy, Walt Disney World is requiring guests wear masks at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Disney Springs, and the resort hotels.
If you’re looking for info about these polices, consider beginning with our FAQ & Guide to Face Masks at Walt Disney World. For a seemingly simple topic, there have been a lot of questions, policy tweaks, and more. That’s a pretty comprehensive look at everything you need to know, presented in question and answer format.
For the first month that Walt Disney World reopened, we presented a section on mask compliance in each of our park photo reports & updates. We haven’t done that recently, and with everything from school going back into session to the holiday weekend to off-season, we thought it’d be worth revisiting–especially as several readers have inquired…
Our initial concern was that after starting out strong in the parks, face mask compliance would dip for a variety of factors. Cast Members would (very understandably) grow tired of the constant conflict and behavior corrections, more guests would attempt to ‘test’ the rules, and there would be general fatigue with the new rules.
It’s entirely possible all or some of that will still play out at some point, but thus far we’ve actually observed the opposite. It should go without saying, but what follows are our anecdotal observations. The two of us are not in every single park every single day. Obviously, your experiences and observations may differ…
As before, mask compliance varies by park. Magic Kingdom, the park largely devoid of alcohol sales, is the best. Our observations have been that 98% of guests have adhered to the rules and are properly wearing masks.
With all of the parks, rule compliance varies by time of day and location. At Magic Kingdom, the worst spot is the Central Plaza and directly in front of Cinderella Castle, where some guests try to “sneak” photos with their masks off. To Walt Disney World’s credit, they’ve modified the in park rule spiel to address this, attempting to proactively correct guest behavior. It’s still not perfect.
Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are about the same at around 97% compliance, which is better first thing in the morning and generally lower as the day wears on. That’s normal at every park.
Both of these parks lose a percentage point due to guests walking and drinking. It’d be easy to vilify alcohol here (and that certainly plays a part) but Starbucks patrons are just as big of an offender. Will mask compliance drop further as we enter the heart of PSL season?! Time will tell.
EPCOT lags further behind with compliance at around 95% or so. The discrepancy here is due to alcohol, specifically drinking around the world. As with the other parks, compliance starts strong and gets worse later in the day.
This split has nothing to do with daytime versus nighttime hours (EPCOT is not frequented by mask werewolves, at least not to my knowledge) and everything to do with the duration of time guests have been boozing. Not only does alcohol lower inhibitions–it also lowers masks.
There’s also a definite World Showcase and Future World split, with the latter being better.
Anecdotally, we’ve also noticed that mask compliance is worse on weekends (pretty typical of fall, but not nearly as bad as a Food & Wine Festival weekend during normal times).
Next up, Disney Springs. Here we have a bright spot where compliance has actually improved since our last check-in.
At that point, we noted rule enforcement had gotten lax as crowds picked up at Disney Springs. Since then, we’ve observed more Cast Members on “patrol” plus the addition of the same spiel that previously had only played in the parks, plus additional signage. Compliance at Disney Springs is still lower than any of the parks, but we’d put it at around 94%.
Finally, let’s turn to the resorts.
This one is tough to quantify, because there’s only one space that’s typically even moderately crowded, and that’s pools. Those have different rules (see below). As for lobbies, compliance is in at least the mid-90s. As for other common areas, we’ll call compliance “good enough.”
As covered in our Guide to Walt Disney World Pools: Rules, Info & FAQ, the official written rule on pools is that masks are required except while actively swimming. However, the unofficial rule that’s followed at every single hotel pool is that masks are not required within the gated boundaries of pool areas.
We have confirmed this with multiple Cast Members at different resorts, and this has been the consistent and clearly-communicated answer. However, this is not posted on signage or written online in any rules. In my view, this is a good compromise approach. Pool areas are entirely outdoors, capacity is kept lower at them, and chairs are appropriately spaced.
Part of me wishes the resorts would adopt unofficial policies akin to those of the pools. There’s absolutely no reason to wear a mask outdoors with no one else nearby. Many guests recognize this, and do remove masks when no one else is around, quickly putting them on with other parties approach (hence the “good enough” above). We often see this while strolling the resorts; having some discretion to remove masks in such scenarios would be nice.
Unfortunately, we understand Walt Disney World’s predicament here. If they give guests an inch, a few will take a mile. While acceptance of and acquiescence to the policies has improved considerably in the last few months, officially introducing discretion is probably too much latitude that some people would try to further exploit.
In terms of non-compliance, the most common thing is a nose sticking out. Sometimes this is intentional, and you’ll see the guest pop it back under when other parties approach in walkways. (While this is technically non-compliance, it doesn’t bother me. If you’re outdoors and physically distanced, as is very often the case with low crowds in the parks, this presents no issue. In queues or anywhere indoors is a totally different matter.)
The other primary thing is walking and drinking. However, due to changes with in-park signage and the overhead spiel, we’ve noticed less and less of this. Cast Members have also been good about “reminding” guests of the rules here.
On very rare occasions, there are guests at Walt Disney World who are just flat-out not wearing masks. Most of these people are in search of a confrontation, eager to unleash an outburst to any Cast Member who dares ask them to don a mask.
We just give ourselves some space, and ignore them. It’s not about masks, it’s about attention. They want the latter so they can record a tantrum to share on social media, further fanning the flames of controversy–even though the rules were made abundantly clear many times prior to entering the park.
It’s also worth pointing out that our limited experiences with mask compliance in Central Florida have markedly improved in the last couple of months. It’s now been nearly three months since Orange County issued a mask mandate, which was initially contentious and ignored by many.
We once described Publix as the wild west, and that’s no longer the case. There are still some shoppers who wholly disregard the mask mandate, but far fewer. Compliance is mostly good–probably around 90%. In general, it seems that the culture war component of masking has largely fizzled out, except at the fringe.
Ultimately, that’s what we’ve observed recently with face mask compliance at Walt Disney World and beyond in Central Florida. In light of all this, we’re no longer expecting compliance to decrease. Not only is the ‘honeymoon period’ with these rules already over, but there’s more widespread compliance outside the parks and the weather will soon start to improve. All of that bodes well for mask compliance for the next several months.
Now, here’s hoping that mask compliance serves its purpose, there’s an effective vaccine, and we can put this in the rearview mirror by Spring 2021. While we’re fine with masks as a short-term prophylactic measure, they’re obviously far from ideal. It probably goes without saying, but like everyone else, we’re ready to go back to normal.
Do you have any questions about current mask compliance at Walt Disney World this failed to answer? If you’ve visited the parks since Walt Disney World reopened, what was your experience wearing masks? Do you agree or disagree with any of our assessment? Please keep the comments civil. This is not the place for arguing about efficacy, politics, and so forth—all such comments will be deleted, irrespective of perspective. You are not going to change anyone’s mind via the comments section on this blog, nor are you going to change Disney’s policy.