Disney World, Disneyland mandate vaccinations for employees, announce indoor mask requirement

Headed to Walt Disney World or Disneyland soon? Pack a mask — you’ll need to wear one at all Disney parks starting Friday.

The company announced that guests ages 2 and older will have to don face coverings for all indoor attractions and on Disney transportation at both parks. Face masks will remain optional outdoors.

The Walt Disney Company – parent company to Disney World and Disneyland – announced Friday that it would require all salaried and non-union hourly U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated. Employees working on-site will have 60 days to get vaccinated, and new hires will need to be fully vaccinated before beginning work.

The company is in talks with unions about requiring employees under collective bargaining agreements to be vaccinated as well.

"At The Walt Disney Company, the safety and well-being of our employees during the pandemic has been and continues to be a top priority," the statement reads. "Vaccines are the best tool we all have to help control this global pandemic and protect our employees.”

The theme parks had lifted their indoor mask mandates on June 15. While proof of vaccination was not required, masks were recommended for those who are not vaccinated.

Now, they'll be mandatory for all, except outside.

"Face coverings are required for all guests (ages 2 and up) while indoors and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status," said a Wednesday update on the Disney website. "This includes upon entering and throughout all attractions."

►Apple mask mandate: Apple to require masks in half of its US stores starting Thursday following CDC mask guidelines

►Summer travel: Need to find out if a tourist attraction is open? Here's where to look for accurate info

A family all wearing masks, stops for photos at Magic Kingdom.
A family all wearing masks, stops for photos at Magic Kingdom.

All guests’ masks must:

  • Be made with at least 2 layers of breathable material

  • Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face

  • Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the guest to remain hands-free

  • Not contain valves, mesh material or holes

Disney's announcement comes on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest recommendation that even vaccinated Americans resume wearing masks indoors if they are in areas with high or substantial transmissibility of COVID-19.

Also on Wednesday, Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County, Florida, declared a state of emergency, urging pubic and private sector employers to require masks indoors, and mask-wearing in indoor-gathering places.

Universal Orlando Resort – which, like Disney World, is located in Orange County – will encourage guests to wear face coverings indoors, spokesperson Alyson Gernert told USA TODAY. Staff will wear face coverings while working in indoor guest areas beginning Saturday.

Universal Studios Hollywood, located in Los Angeles County, updated its guidance earlier this month to comply with county orders to mask up indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Social media reacts to Disney's updated mask policy

Disney's masks-required announcement spread quickly on social media, lighting up Disney-centered Facebook pages.

Jamie Yadoff, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a Disney Vacation Club member and an annual passholder. Disney's move is "an excellent decision, though it should start immediately," she said.

“Masks help keep all of us, especially children who are too young to be vaccinated, safer," Yadoff said. And with the new variant spreading rapidly, this health and safety change seems crucial.”

In case you missed it: Florida becomes U.S. epicenter of COVID, reports wrong death count

Carolyn Perrine of Melbourne, Florida, has been a passholder for the past 20 years and said she has loved going to the parks "as much as possible." She's pleased to see the return of mask rules, and was disappointed that Disney ended pushing social distancing.

"Right before the COVID shutdown, I was visiting once a week. Since I’m high risk, I waited a long, long time to return," Perrine said. "I felt Disney was doing a great job of reducing the risk, but until I was vaccinated I just couldn’t take the chance.

"I got vaccinated in March and for my birthday in June my husband and I spent the weekend at the Grand Floridian. We visited Disney Springs and used the Skyliner and monorail," Perrine added.

Based on CDC recommendations, she and her husband skipped masks while indoors on that trip.

After a trip to Disney Springs the weekend of July 23, in a packed crowd, she regrets now that she didn't wear a mask on both trips.

"I regret that I allowed myself to be complacent, even if the CDC said it was OK. I knew we were going to go backwards," she said. "We can’t get control of this virus when people refuse to vaccinate and refuse to mask. I’m glad Disney is willing to reverse course based on science."

Disney's move, she said, "is the right thing to do to protect our community and Disney family.

"The next step I’m hoping for is for Disney to require vaccines for cast members and guests," she said. "If the governor continues to reject science and won’t let them, they should require COVID tests from all unvaccinated guests like the cruise lines plan to do."

Follow Britt Kennerly onTwitter @bybrittkennerly.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Disney requires masks indoors, mandates vaccines for employees