UPDATE: Disney World has been forced to make new changes to its mask policy following criticism for relaxation zones. Read to the end to get the new mask rules.
Following a lengthy closure due to COVID-19, Disney World in Orlando, Florida has reopened with social distancing measures in place. However, not everyone is convinced that it’s safe to return. The resort is being criticized for having so-called “relaxation zones” where guests can remove their masks. Meanwhile, many fans are questioning the wisdom of reopening at all in the face of rising case numbers across the US — particularly in Florida.
New Social Distancing Measures
The resort opened the gates to its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks on July 11, just under four months after closing due to the coronavirus.
It’s not quite business as usual, however. For instance, the parks will be operating at limited capacity to keep crowd sizes down. Guests will have their temperatures checked near the front gate, and will also notice scores of new hand-sanitizing stations and plexiglass partitions in shops and restaurants. All guests over age two are reportedly required to wear a face mask.
Still, even with the extra safety measures, videos and images on social media have Disney fans wondering if it’s really safe. Over the weekend, several posts surfaced calling the resort out for spotty enforcement of social distancing.
It’s crazy at The World of Disney store in Downtown Disney. 😲— Markell Bailey (@tenorbuds) July 9, 2020
(📽 by @jennydisneydreams on Instagram) pic.twitter.com/PWQxT1VIhE
adding video to explain the full issue, which is more than just the above line.— 🍭 carlye wisel (@carlyewisel) July 11, 2020
there were also TWO MORE lanes of pedestrian traffic in the SAME walkway.
It’s not a fluke, either – we were directed straight into the bottleneck. (You can hear it in the background.) pic.twitter.com/nhSB3o8gXm
“Relaxation Zones” Slammed
Fans are also speaking out against the use of designated “relaxation zones,” where guests are reportedly allowed to remove their masks. The resort reportedly offers these locations throughout the park, many of them located indoors.
“Each park offers at least one indoor location with A/C,” a Disney World spokesperson told the New York Post, adding that “there is physical distancing and a limited number of guests” allowed at each one.
Many social media users aren’t convinced, however, with some decrying the zones as “ridiculous” and “irresponsible.”
With so much controversy and unease surrounding the opening, some social media users are even having a little fun with Disney’s announcement video by adding scary music on top of it.
Disney World have released an ad showing they’re open for business. It’s sinister AF. If you’re wondering how it plays with the score from The Shining… it’s at home… pic.twitter.com/6i5Wwvbj2n— Charlie Gee (@Charlie_A_Gee) July 9, 2020
Even celebrities are getting in on it, with 2 Broke Girls‘ Kat Dennings and Westworld‘s Jimmi Simpson sharing their own ominous edits.
They finally got the Disney World ad right. pic.twitter.com/avy2PUOQXQ— Jimmi Simpson (@jimmisimpson) July 12, 2020
The reopening of Disney World continued on July 15 at its Epcot and Hollywood Studios parks. Meanwhile, Florida reported a one-day record of new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, July 12 with 15,300 cases, followed by 12,624 more the next day.
Update — July 20, 2020
Disney World has now announced a ban on guests eating or drinking while walking in the park, reports the Daily Mail. The initial policy allowed guests to remove masks while eating. However, the outlet reports that some guests were using the guideline as a loophole to walk through the parks without masks.
The news was confirmed by journalist Scott Gustin on Twitter, who speculated that the changes may have been prompted by incidents at the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT, which started on July 15.
“Guests are now being asked to find a safe spot six feet from other guests before removing their masks to eat and drink,” a park employee reportedly told Walt Disney News Today.