Face Mask Compliance at Disney World
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.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
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.
Professor douche bag,
It is seriously silly to make people wear masks outdoors. It’s extremely low risk to be outdoors and it’s healthy to be breathing fresh air. It seems to only be about form and rule compliance.
We normally travel to Disney every year. This year will be the second year of us not going but we really want to. I’m on the fence because I have a child who just turned three and isn’t able to keep a mask on for more than a couple of minutes. How strict are they if my toddler keeps pulling his mask off while being pushed around in his stroller? Should we not go again this year due to the mask policy???
The cast members take your word at your child’s age and whether they are two and have to wear a mask but they may give you a few friendly reminders. They become more insistent if your older. But again, you’ll probably get quite a few reminders. All day.
Basicly this not a game this is not a personal choice ..this is serious..follow the rules of not taking off the face coverings off ..otherwise you are putting lives in danger. Ignorance to this rule , testing this rule, ignoring the rule is not acceptable. No one come to your home and spits on your food because that’s what taking off your face covering is like
Keep them on even for pictures especially around others and small children.
So I really have to wear a mask
I had covid already six mony ago .my wife is a nurse and is vaccinated ……so isn’t that the point of vaccination and antibody s ……so then I don’t need wear a mask
.so why do vaccinated people have to wear them .so government wasting money on vaccination to get rid of masks …guess that worked …..lol
How do people wear these masks and kids in the summer? I
We just do. I experienced Disney in the summer many times with masks. It’s hot. Is it hotter with the masks? Possibly. But hot is hot. They are uncomfortable but you just either accept it and do your best or wait until things normalize. But honestly, it didn’t seem that much worse with them. As I said, hot is hot, with or without the mask.
We just got back last week (Jan 28-Feb 1) and I would venture to say compliance at the parks was very, very high. We were only stopped once in 4 days for taking a sip of coffee while walking. Even if you (we) don’t necessarily WANT to wear them, it’s nice to see everyone on the same page about compliance, since it is our personal choice to be there. I understand Disney needing to stay open and having the “we must do this right if we are going to do it” mentality – and it’s good for business and the economy. We did see a 3 year old (ish?) eating popcorn in a stroller get apprehended. My question for the other fans and Tom is, my son JUST turned two, if we bring him back in the next month or two, do they ask for an age to enforce the mask? Wondering what other experiences may be here. He’s never been, so we could easily wait to bring him, but the lines were so short it’s so tempting to go back ASAP. Thanks, all! Anything is worth it for a little magic fix. Also, used many of your tips, Tom for enjoyable and lovely days at the parks this time and was SO magical, as always.
I believe that cast members take your honest word for the ages of children. Is should be less about if you can get away with it and more will your child wear it. It’s a pandemic, it’s Disney rules, and it is common courtesy. If your child will wear it, definitely do. I have seen others being escorted out for not following the rules.
I was there last week, and saw plenty of kids napping in strollers that I would say were in the 3-4yo range. Nobody approached them about putting a mask on the kid while they were sleeping. I would also say that enforcement in that group seems pretty lax. If they’re not in a line or on a ride nobody seems bothered by it.
I was wondering how they deal with children 2and older who would normally take a nap in the stroller? Are they required to wear a mask or stay in the designated mask free area while kids sleep?
If masks are so important, why have the pools open with no masks? Universal does the same. Does chlorine kill the coronavirus??? Of course not. And this is the place there are no markers for social distancing! People need to realize they cannot go anywhere and have absolutely no risk. No one will ever wear a mask properly 100% of the time, and even if they do, the virus can still spread. So you have to have reasonable expectations, and realize it’s a mild virus for most people, and you may want to hold off if you are high risk.
I respect Disney’s right to make whatever rules they want. I agree, though, with the gentlemen that said stop treating us like children. There should be no reason people can’t snap quick pictures without a mask IF they are distanced. Or have a drink or whatever. Most of us are conscientious-if not for ourselves, then out of consideration for those who are clearly more uncomfortable or fearful.
I do think some people have a very hard time breathing with masks. I have asthma and it’s hard! I will let it sometimes come down past my nose IF no one is near me, and then pull it up. But then I am also fairly certain I don’t have the virus; I test regularly. Other people probably do, too; we shouldn’t assume we know everything about everyone.
Michael Hunt and FUn…
I find it interesting that you liberals can say anything you want and no one can oppose your views but when someone with a differing opinion than you says something you lash out at them or try to shut them up. Such a double standard.
My apologies–I didn’t see either of those comments when they were originally posted, but both have been deleted.
We have no issue with anyone respectfully sharing their perspective, whatever it may be, but personal attacks and/or trolling are not tolerated.
so was I , I was seated and away from passing traffic, I had my drink in my hand
I was actually reprimanded for not having my mask on while eating and sitting stationery – because I was indoors, resting on a bench at the exit from Space Mountain.
That makes no sense? The restaurants are indoors? I’m sure there is some confusion on how to handle this. It’s new for everyone, after all.
Do you know if Universal Studios, Disney World or any of the Disney parks around the world, have had any COVOD cases reported since their reopening? I have not heard of any, Thank you.
Wow, really? You felt unsafe! Then you should have left. So ridiculous! I would advise you to boost up your immune system and you’ll be just fine.
My family and I were at Epcot on Saturday, Sept. 19 and Magic Kingdom on Sunday, Sept. 20. The crowds were quite large with very little social distancing, dozens of masks worn incorrectly, and not enough cast members to correct these behaviors. We felt unsafe. We expected Disney to do better.
Wow, really? You felt unsafe! Then you should have left. So ridiculous! I would advise you to boost up your immune system and you’ll be just fine.
I visited Epcot today when the park was at “full capacity”. I noticed many incorrectly worn masks (nose exposed, dangling from one ear) and no CMs addressed this problem. In fact, there were CMs who also didn’t wear masks properly.
Social distancing was also a problem, especially in the Japanese and the Chinese stores where no one was monitoring how many people were inside. In contrast, the Mexico pavilion had an orderly socially distanced line waiting to enter.
To make matters worse, CMs herded guests into massive clumps to make way for “cavalcades” of CMs in costume riding in vehicles down the walkways of the World Showcase These herder CMs didn’t care if they were forcing dozens of guests to form crowds – their sole interest was in protecting the Costumed CMs in the vehicles. I realize the herder CMs were just following orders; my beef is with the head of the Epcot entertainment division in charge of these cavalcades which seemed to come every 15-20 minutes. With the booths for Food & Wine taking up space on the walkways, adding a mini parade that requires clearing guests when the park is at capacity is extremely irresponsible. There are numerous signs at WDW asking guests to socially distance, but Disney management thinks mini parades are more important than guest safety. In my opinion, the cavalcades should be suspended on days when the parks are sold out.
I noticed that people wore masks when they felt they were being watched and held responsible. The biggest problem is when people are waiting for an indoor ride, the ride stops and slows the line down. We had no CM’s watching and a large group in front of us pulled down their masks. Kids were running around, climbing on the railings and not wearing masks. When a CM did come around and ask them to pull masks up, they complied but quickly took them off when the CM left. I felt it was a complete lack of respect for people around them and for the rules designed to keep people safe.
Absolutely 100% agree. We saw the same multiple times. Many people are just over the masks and aren’t going to do it anymore. Which explains the high crowds…
We spent eight days in the parks recently. We saw almost everyone following the face mask rules; however, what we were troubled to experience was the lack of social distancing by cast members and visitors.
Many cast members stand in front of the door of stores and won’t move, thus creating less than the six feet required. In one instance, I asked a cast member to please move so I could get six feet, she chuckled at me…
Worse yet, social distancing is not happening when exiting a ride. Of course, there are no social distancing lines at the exit, so people crowd the exit, thus causing another distancing issue…
We had a good time, but many people simply ignored social distancing guidelines.
And please, I know the cast members work hard and long hours and do expose themselves to COVID more than all of us, please don’t kill the messenger.
COVID is not transmitted by briefly passing by someone with less than 6 ft distance. If you check the CDC website, it refers to 15 minutes or more at closer than 6 feet. Passing by a cast member at the door, or another table at the restaurant, or even brief crowding at a ride exit (unless this is an extended time period) is just not how it is transmitted. I know I’m just a random stranger on the internet, but check out the CDC site ~ hopefully, it will ease your mind. It also states, “Most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.” Of 5 family and friends with COVID, this was the case for all of us. 2 other family members residing in the same households didn’t even catch it. Be cautious of course, but not fearful.