The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its mask guidance Thursday, allowing Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to resume pre-pandemic indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or socially distancing. That could possibly lead Disneyland and Walt Disney World to drop their current requirement that all visitors wear face coverings while at the U.S. theme parks, based on executive commentary from the Walt Disney Co.
The revised CDC mask guidance is “big news for us, particularly if anybody’s been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on — that can be quite daunting,” said Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek on the company’s second-quarter earnings call. The changes should “make for an even more pleasant experience” as Disney Parks bring more of its furloughed staffers back to work, which should translate to an “even bigger catalyst in growth in attendance.”
Disney has already started raising capacity limits at the parks, given today’s CDC guidance and earlier guidance from the state of Florida, he said. Disneyland, based in Anaheim, Calif., recently reopened in grand fashion on April 30 after more than a yearlong closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, bringing back over 10,000 furloughed workers. Chapek said on the call that 80% of the parks workers that the company had called back to work have since returned. At Disneyland, “intent to visit” — a metric used to indicate demand — is growing, he said, and noted that intent to visit at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. is already at pre-COVID, fiscal 2019 levels. (Disney World has been back open since July 2020.) One limiting factor for the reopening effort is getting “cast members,” as Disney’s theme park and resort workers are known, return to work, added the chief exec, but so far there have been “no problems whatsoever” in that regard.
The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to Disney’s theme parks and resorts division in particular, translating to a nearly $7 billion hit to Disney revenue in fiscal 2020, with 32,000 in parks layoffs. But on Thursday, Chapek framed the closures as an opportunity for the company to “completely reexamine how we priced and programmed our tickets.”
It was a “perfect positive storm — we’ve got plenty of demand and great yield management gains, cost management at the same time,” he said on the call.
The Disneyland workers who Variety spoke with ahead of the park’s reopening were generally enthusiastic, though one union leader also noted that some parks workers who had not yet been fully vaccinated were anxious about going back to the park. Some found Disney’s commitment to safety measures to be reassuring.
“They’re doing social distancing, the temp checks, wearing masks, and sick pay… as long as Disney continues with the safety measures, I think we’re gonna be set,” Ines Guzman, who has worked in housekeeping at Disneyland Resort for five years, told Variety ahead of the April reopening.
At Disneyland, visit reservations are currently required, guests have their temperatures taken at the entrance, and only California residents can visit in groups spanning no more than three households.
UPDATE: If you are fully vaccinated against #COVID19, you can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, incl. local business and workplace guidance. More: https://t.co/FJMon7WlFO
— CDC (@CDCgov) May 13, 2021