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Theme park face mask requirements not likely to end soon; What a vaccine could mean for visitors

by Attractions Magazine Staff

As people across the world hope for a COVID-19 vaccine to be ready and distributed as soon as possible, what could that mean in terms of the changes we’ve seen in the theme parks so far? Will guests and employees still be required to wear masks? Will plexiglass still separate you from the row in front on your ride vehicle? Will your party still need to stand on a sticker six feet away from another party? The short answer? No one knows yet – or has announced plans for these circumstances.

Two girls pose in front of Universal's globe with their face masks on.

While there are a handful of promising vaccines working to be distributed around the world, theme park fans are starting to wonder if they will need to get the vaccine in order to visit these vacation destinations in the future.

Theme park and entertainment industry analyst Bill Zanetti said that that decision is up to the individual theme park companies. “Some parks want to get back to normal as soon as possible, others want to purvey a sense of security and safety to guests for as long as possible, regardless if they are effective at preventing COVID-19 or not. It’s about making guests feel comfortable,” he explained.

A mother and son ride the carousel at Magic Kingdom while wearing face masks.

Many people don’t expect the face mask requirement seen globally to disappear anytime soon, as it will take months for vaccine distribution and injections to take place. Even then, just having the vaccine doesn’t mean you can’t spread the virus to someone else who is unvaccinated. No one knows if that’s the case yet.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, does not expect there to be state or country mandates in the U.S. that people receive the vaccine, meaning that though many theme park goers and employees opt-in to receive the vaccine, not all will.

This is where theme parks may choose to require all guests and employees to provide individual proof of the vaccine before entering. What impact would it have on attendance and guest satisfaction and comfort?.

Many theme park fans are wondering if they’ll need a special issued card or passport stamp, similar to an organ donor verification on a driver’s license, or possibly an app that shows they’ve been vaccinated to travel around the globe and visit various attractions.

A British technology company, VST Enterprises, has created a digital health passport and wallet. The V-Health Passport records results from all global COVID-19 testing manufacturers and also has a unique contact tracing capability built within. The passport also holds test records and can be used by companies to determine if someone is allowed to travel. This passport also helps with contact tracing if the owner is ever exposed to someone with the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has previously developed similar vaccination verification cards for Yellow Fever. The International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) is obtained, signed and stamped when someone receives a vaccine against Yellow Fever and is used when traveling. It hasn’t been announced if there will be a similar process developed for COVID-19 vaccines.

At the end of November, Australian airline Qantas announced that international passengers will need to have the COVID-19 vaccine to be able to fly on their planes. This is the only airline globally to announce this type of requirement so far.

Girl in mask with Jaws

Former Disney Imagineer Eddie Sotto of Sotto Studios said that removing the safety protocols in parks and having guests be reassured they are safe during their visit may take a while. “The epic horror film ‘Jaws’ turned 40 this year and there are still people that won’t go back in the water,” he said. (Eddie talks more about the new theme park safety protocols in the Fall 2020 issue of “Attractions Magazine”.)

Gaining a guest and employee’s trust that they are safe and will remain healthy from their visit will be a challenge down the road for the parks whenever they do cross the bridge of removing mask requirements, social distancing markers, plexiglass, temperature checks, etc.

Although the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has announced its initial recommendations of the order of distribution, we are still far off from seeing the effects of the vaccine in mass numbers, or a decline in cases in the U.S.

Jason Cochran, editor-in-chief of Frommers.com, who has been covering various aspects of the virus’ effects on travel, said, “Because it’s in the parks’ interest to ensure the safety of every last guest, these protocols will be in place long after the general public begins to be vaccinated.”

Fans ride a roller coaster with face masks on at universal studios florida.

We asked Disney and Universal what their plans for the future were in terms of COVID-19 prevention procedures, but neither had any comment. Currently, all of the major theme parks in Florida require all guests to wear face coverings at all times except while eating or drinking except Legoland Florida, which only requires masks on their rides and indoor locations. All of the major theme parks in California remain closed.

As far as how theme parks will look over the next few years, it’s likely they’ll look very similar to now. Maybe with slightly more crowds, but it is clear that until the virus is controlled in some capacity globally, the state of the parks — be they open or closed — may remain the same.

“It is going to vary state by state, but I believe that measures staying in place will be linked to the COVID-19 numbers. As these numbers regress, measures will lift,” said Andy Guinigundo, a nurse practitioner and writer for “Attractions Magazine”. “I think a vaccine may aid in the speed at which we can get back to ‘normal.’”

While vaccines are already being distributed, with varying effectiveness, around the world, it is still unknown whether they prevent the infection of COVID-19 or just the symptoms of the virus. Until result trends can be seen, mask requirements and social distancing may very well be in place for the near future, both at your local grocery store and the theme parks.


Are you alright with all guests being required to wear face masks until the numbers are lower? Would you be OK with being required to show proof you’ve has a vaccine before being able to enter a theme park? Sound off in the comments below.

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20 comments

Alessio Liberti December 12, 2020 - 9:35 am

I would do whatever it takes for us to go back to normal and personally I don’t mind having proof of getting the vaccine but I know some people are not willing to do that and they will Learn their lesson

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Evelyn Infinger April 21, 2021 - 10:55 pm

Your given your rights away , but not me. I don’t need what their selling and ethically don’t believe in vaccines. The abuse the life’s of unborn children to develop this shot. The chances of dying is about as great or less than the flu. Some people have medical reasons for not wearing masks and this is a discrimination mandate

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Paul Pritchard December 14, 2020 - 5:51 pm

Of course we would wear a face covering and show positive proof that we have had a Covid19 vaccine. We would do whatever it takes to help reduce the spread of this virus

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sunny39466 April 23, 2021 - 11:24 pm

Wow! You are COMPLETELY brainwashed! Do some damned research and stop being a sheep. Disgusting!

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Kay December 17, 2020 - 9:43 pm

If I get a vaccine and others choose not to why should I need to wear a mask to help protect them if they aren’t willing to protect themselves. Smdh

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Matt Roseboom December 18, 2020 - 8:53 am

I agree with you after everyone has had a chance to get one, but until then, some people won’t have a chance to get a vaccine yet. They’re saying it may be summer before it is widely available. And since the park has visitors worldwide, it has to be widely available everywhere.

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Betty Clark December 29, 2020 - 10:34 pm

Today Disney made a grave error. They post that they follow CDC guidelines, that is not true. Additionally, they broke federal law based on ADA and ARC policy for children with a rare syndrome. Harm was caused to both my child and my family. My attorney will enjoy this issue when he is filing suite for discrimination.

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JAMES B EISMON December 30, 2020 - 9:18 am

They are a private company. They can make any rules they like. Visiting Disney is a luxury, not a need. You were not denied anything. I am asthmatic, among other things and am not required to wear a mask. As such I know that there are businesses and places I can’t go of im not wearing one. This is not an ADA violation or ARC. They are not denying you of any necessary service.

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LSmith January 1, 2021 - 11:53 am

My children will never wear a mask. Nor will we go to Disney until the mandate is removed. We knew nothing about the virus in April 2020. We do now. It’s not near as deadly as once thought and the vaccines are here. The mandates should be removed once the general public has access. Normal is normal. If you are afraid, you can stay at home forever.

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Joanne Earle January 13, 2021 - 7:54 pm

Agree with you 100%. This is ridiculous. Our grandson is autistic and won’t wear one. I’m not spending in excess of ten grand on a big family trip if I can’t take pics of the joy on the boys’ faces. We put off our trip from Jan to Nov but we’ll keep putting it off till Disney stops buying into the hysteria.

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Jo Ellen Nissen January 26, 2021 - 9:32 pm

I agree 100%. This is ridiculous. People need to open their eyes and smell government control. All face mask are doing is teaching our kids to be afraid. As long as theme parks require face masks they don’t need or will not get my money. It is so sad to see so many faceless people hiding behind masks afraid they’re going to die tomorrow. Go to church!!!! What is really sad is to see this fear and control being taught to our children. If your afraid and want to wear a mask be my guest, but don’t try to make me. As for any business that promotes this kind of government control SHAME ON YOU!!!!!

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Joanne Earle January 28, 2021 - 4:55 pm

Preach! I’m of the opinion that if people are THAT scared of getting covid at Disney, then don’t go. Let the rest of us have the option to wear one. And don’t force it on disabled/autistic folks/kids. You can’t even pull it down to get a group/family picture! Ridiculous. I’m not spending over 10 grand on an epic family trip to have it ruined by this stupid policy. People don’t have to go to Disney. It’s an expensive choice. Stay home if you are afraid. My husband and I are not afraid. Even if we are forced into the vaccine in order to go, I’m not wearing a mask.

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Melanie April 6, 2021 - 4:04 am

I agree with you 100%! There are so many sheep following the herd. It’s all about government control. Most people are buying into this fake pandemic but fortunately many are finally waking up. I refuse to spend thousands on a Disney vacation as long as masks are required. Unfortunately, we’ll have to keep postponing if masks aren’t required and as a consequence lose our vacation points that can’t be banked. I wish Disney would wake up and stop carrying on this nonsense. There’s nothing for people to fear. And if they take tyrannical steps to mandate vaccination for park entry, then I guess we’ll never take another Disney vacation and I’ll have to sell my timeshare. That would be so disappointing as we are huge Disney fans. I pray for anyone who takes these experimental “vaccines” which have already killed and injured many thousands of people in just a short amount of time. I would never take that kind of risk just to appease others. Having a strong immune system is all you need to protect yourself. I wish the government and main stream media would stop the fear mongering. It’s disgusting!

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John Wythe January 4, 2021 - 10:17 pm

The demand for theme parks won’t fully rebound until the masks are cancelled. The whole country is flocking to Florida because there is no state-wide mask requirement. Clearly at least half of the country does not think masks do anything and vote with their wallets.

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Amanda January 5, 2021 - 4:23 pm

My daughter is five, has autism and cannot wear a mask. Until she is not required to wear one to enter, we as a family cannot go back. I feel that they should be honoring medical exemptions, and the majority of people would still wear them. Unfortunately, we cannot just say put it on and deal with it. It doesn’t work that way. Next to holding it against her face, it won’t stay on. I think people need to show a little grace. If more than half of our medical personnel is not getting the vaccine, I don’t know how they expect the general public to. Requiring proof of a vaccination is walking a very thin line.

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Michelle January 26, 2021 - 8:50 pm

We won’t go back while masks are required! We will never get the vaccine! We would go tomorrow if masks were not required!

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Sean Mullery February 1, 2021 - 4:56 am

Absolute joke this policy
I hope by 2022 no masks around
Hell

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Gary April 9, 2021 - 8:19 am

We are in the same boat with several others – we do not wear masks and will not get the vaccine, at least until it is really proven effective and safe. That has yet to be done. We have only worn a mask for maybe 20 minutes during this whole scamdemic. There’s no way in heck I’m going to wear one for hours outside in a theme park. My money can go elsewhere.

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Denise Wheeler April 17, 2021 - 12:11 am

Vaccines have caused adverse reactions in many. Articles pushing this vaccine INSULT people who won’t/can’t take it ( I personally have allergic reactions to too many things to risk a vaccine that hasn’t even been approved by the FDA). There’s an agenda…or certain publications wouldn’t be so obviously nasty about the “ unvaccinated “. There is a push to make those that choose not to take the vaccine look “ less than”. Well if you take the vaccine then you’re protected, right? So why insult others who choose not to take it? I can do without businesses that mandate the vaccine. And if people continue to have adverse reactions and vaccines continue to be “ pulled” due to the fact that they are injuring people…. who’s actually “protecting “ themselves? Those who take the vaccine ….or those who don’t? Especially when there are other ways of treating/avoiding Covid? Supplements that behave like hydroxychloroquine have worked for my family so far…. and more than one doctor has advised us to continue what we’re doing.

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sunny39466 April 23, 2021 - 11:18 pm

Am I willing to give my rights away to visit a theme park?!? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Those who are willing to do so are either blatantly ignorant or totally brainwashed. Think it through, folks. I’m sure our Founding Fathers who risked everything for freedom from England are turning over in their graves right now. We have reservations to Disney this June but are not at all thrilled to have to wear masks. Right now we are discussing a change of plans. Remember…as long as you are compliant things will not return to normal. This is not about a virus. This is about control.

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