We have all been through the various stages of the pandemic, and thankfully once again, things seem to be relaxing in most places. In February of 2022, Walt Disney World took a big step in a return to normal theme park experiences and removed the mask requirements in the parks and hotels. Then, in the beginning of April, another step was taken and we were excited to report that Walt Disney World was going to and has now since removed the barriers to meet and greet the characters once again.
As people have started returning to Disney in droves, there was still some confusion on when and where guests were required to wear masks. Many people wondered exactly why Disney was still requiring masks to be worn on transportation and not anywhere else. To the surprise of many trying to board they were asked to put a mask on, and the guests typical rebuttals on the surface make sense. On more than one occasion we have witnessed guests getting angry and sometimes downright rude with bus drivers and the cast members at the Monorails. Many question the cast members on why they were just in the parks and indoors shoulder to shoulder with no mask and now they need one. This is a valid question and the confusion stems from a couple of different areas. The first is, when asking cast members, we did not find one who had a good response. However, there was a good reason and it stems from a national mask mandate on public transportation.
The very reason why a mask was required in the airport and when on airplanes. We believe this was part of a plan to help keep the pilots and airline employees safe. After all, there are plenty of folks that fly every day but a very limited number who are certified to actually fly the planes. The last thing any of us want is a pilot who is sick or even not exactly feeling their best flying us anywhere. Many of the labor unions have negotiated with companies and agencies to follow the mandates to help bring the workforce back in a safe and controlled way. The CDC defines Public Transport as any mode of transport other than a private vehicle. It would have been really helpful for Disney to have given a clear reason or response to the question - why am I wearing a mask on a bus/monorail/boat when it is not required anywhere else? This could have alleviated a lot of stress for everyone involved as many people thought the mask rules were set to keep them safe, when it was actually intended to keep the buses, trains, planes and monorails staffed with healthy individuals.
As of April 18th, 2022 we saw an announcement that a judge has ruled the newly extended mask mandate has exceeded the authority of U.S. health officials. The mandate requiring travelers on airplanes and other public transport to mask up has been voided, for now. Due to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, Florida the TSA will no longer enforce the transit mask mandate. As with any ruling the judge's decision is being reviewed by federal agencies. During this time however, the TSA will not enforce the CDC's public transportation order. The CDC does still encourage wearing a mask on public transportation.
Following this announcement by the TSA, some airlines moved quickly to make masks optional. Major international carriers like United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Airlines all made announcements for their customers. Other domestic carriers such as Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines all made their policy changes public as well. Please note, you may still be asked to wear a mask at the airport, on trains or buses. Be sure to check on your specific travel providers guidance in your region of travel.
For its part, Disney has followed the TSA and CDC guidelines seemingly in lockstep throughout the pandemic. The current Walt Disney World Face Covering Policy has yet to be updated. Disney has been a bit slower and perhaps more deliberate in making Covid-19 health decisions. It will be interesting to see how Disney reacts as the CDC has recently extended the public transport mask mandate. The mandate was set to expire on April 18th, and was extended to May 3rd. The mandate which went live in January 2021 may now be coming to an end. Ironically, the two week extension was put into place to study new variants. It is hard to tell at this point if this ruling to void the extension will actually make a difference. Appeals can often take a long time and this case may not be reviewed until after May 3rd anyway.
Based on what we have seen from Disney is a gradual and intentional approach to Covid-19 health and safety protocols. We highly recommend packing those masks anyway, they do not take up much space in luggage and we are not 100% sure if or when they may be required and by whom. In some cases we may not understand the rules but we should all play by them if we want to participate.
Just because we appear to be once again turning a corner on Covid-19 please remain respectful to cast members and employees of establishments who are often left enforcing policies that they have no influence over. They have a job to do and we all need to respect them, even if you do not agree with the rules they are being asked to enforce. Please also remember to give others personal space. Standing closer to someone does not make a line move faster and with summer coming up, it will be hot enough. The most important thing to remember is if you are feeling sick, stay home. This doesn't have to be only a Covid-19 issue but any contagious illness.
We hope you enjoyed this article and have a new understanding for the Disney mask policies and why they seemed to be so randomly applied. Please download the NewsBreak APP and follow us for updates, and recipes all year long. In closing, we are not sure if you are for or against masks, Disney or anything at all, but please discuss it in the comments in a civil and respectful manner.