Walt Disney World guests wearing Masks on Magic Kingdom carousel

When Walt Disney World reopened in July of 2020, it did so with a lot of new rules in place in order to better manage the health and safety concerns of guests. However, the most important thing about the new rules is that they've never been set in stone. As knowledge about the pandemic increases and best practices change, Disney World has modified the rules to comply as best as possible. Sometimes this has forced the resort to be more restrictive than it initially was, but we've also seen a relaxing of restrictions when medical officials have deemed such changes acceptable, and that seems to have happened again as Walt Disney World has actually increased the opportunities guests have to remove their masks inside the parks. But the same rule won't be in effect when Disneyland reopens.

Previously, the only time that guests were officially allowed to remove their masks was while actively eating or drinking, and they were required to remain stationary while doing so. However, that rule has now been modified to allow guests to remove their masks when taking an outdoor photo, assuming that proper physical distancing is still maintained and that guests getting their picture taken still remain stationary. This rule is for guests taking photos of themselves, but official Photopass photographers are also allowing guests to remove their masks for pictures.

However, California's state guidelines for theme parks reopening specifies that masks can only be removed while eating or drinking. It makes no other allowances, and gives theme parks no apparent discretion to make any other allowances. Which is why the change that was recently made to the rule, and posted on the Walt Disney World website, cannot also be found on the Disneyland website.

This will certainly make for a happy change for many guests. It's one thing to have to walk around Walt Disney World in a mask, but when it comes to taking home memories of a trip, I'm not sure anybody really wants to remember the fact that they had to wear a mask. Previously guests were expected to keep their masks on even in photos, but now you can at least make your vacation look like it was normal, even if it really wasn't.

Maskless photos at Walt Disney World certainly haven't been unusual, even during the pandemic, but they have been against policy and those that have posted such photos have frequently received an earful for it. Country singer Jason Aldean deleted a photo of himself and his family at Walt Disney World last fall after he got flack for the fact that nobody was wearing a mask.

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In its own way, this feels like good news. If Walt Disney World feels that removing masks outdoors for brief periods is acceptable, then it could be another indication that things are heading in the right direction as far as the pandemic goes. Recently, the parks started fully loading outdoor roller coasters rather than limiting seating to allow for more social distancing. That decision was made with input from health experts, and so this one likely was as well.

We still shouldn't expect masks to be going away anytime soon. While Disney has indicated that it expects most or all pandemic restrictions to be gone by early next year, we're still a long way from that part of the year. Even with vaccinations on the rise, masks will remain the rule for the foreseeable future, but we'll likely continue to see a few more exceptions as we head toward the point where we can remove masks entirely.

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