Disney World announces that face masks will now be 'optional' outdoors

Disney World in Orlando, Fla., relaxed its face mask rules in specific outdoor areas of the park. (Photo: Kent Phillips/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images)
Disney World in Orlando, Fla., relaxed its face mask rules in specific outdoor areas of the park. (Photo: Kent Phillips/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images)

Disney World guests can ditch their face masks outdoors, the Orlando, Fla. theme park announced Friday, following new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Starting May 15, face coverings for guests will be optional in outdoor common areas at Walt Disney World Resort, with the exception that guests must wear face coverings from the entrances at all attractions, theaters or transportation and throughout those experiences," a Disney spokesperson tells Yahoo Entertainment.

The rules, which do not specifically apply to vaccinated guests, are also updated on the park's official website. In general, face masks are required for guests ages 2 and older, except while eating or drinking in a stationary position while physical distancing.

On Friday evening, Universal Orlando also announced that face masks are not mandatory while outdoors and SeaWorld stated that "Face coverings will no longer be required for guests at SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando, and Discovery Cove who are fully vaccinated in accordance with CDC guidance. We will not require proof of vaccine, but ask our guests to respectfully comply with our revised policy." And retailers Trader Joe's, Walmart, Costco and Starbucks said that vaccinated customers will no longer be required to wear masks.

On Thursday, the CDC stated that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (meaning, they have received two doses of the shot) can go mask-free indoors and outdoors without practicing social distancing. "If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic," Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC said in a news briefing. "We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy. Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines, and our understanding of how the virus spreads, that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated."

People who are immune-compromised should speak to their doctor about a safety plan, said Walensky adding that healthcare facilities will continue following their own guidelines. She warned that recommendations might tighten if the pandemic grows, although increased vaccination rates should lessen the odds of new variants spreading. "If you develop symptoms, you should put your mask back on and get tested right away," said Walensky. "The science is also very clear about unvaccinated people. You remain at risk of mild or severe illness, of death, or of spreading the disease to other."

In the United States, more than 120 million people (36.2 percent of the population) have received both shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Also this week, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices gave Pfizer the stamp of approval to vaccinate children ages 12 to 15, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's emergency-use authorization to vaccinate kids starting at age 12, lowering the minimum age from 16, as Yahoo Life previously reported.

During the pandemic, Disney World closed for 116 days, with a phased re-opening in July, while Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. stayed closed for more than a year, re-opening in April with revamped attractions, limited capacity and rules that banned hugging cast members. However, masks are in still place.

“Disneyland Resort’s current guidelines, which require all guests (ages 2 and older) and cast members to wear face coverings, remain in effect until further notice," a spokesperson from Disney tells Yahoo Entertainment. "Policies will be evaluated in accordance with state and local recommendations as soon as guidance is released.”

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