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Disney World Closes Mask Loophole: No Eating While Walking Allowed

Guests must be socially distanced and sitting or standing while having a snack

Walt Disney World has tightened up rules on when guests can take off their masks while at the Orlando resort, as eating and drinking while walking is no longer allowed.

According to Disney fan site Mickey Blog, the WDW website and signs at the park explaining COVID-19 safety rules have been updated over the weekend. Masks have been required at all times by guests in the park except when eating and drinking or in specially designated areas. Now, the “eating and drinking” portion has been changed, with Disney telling guests they should be “stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing” while having a snack.

This new rule comes as all four WDW parks have now reopened in spite of surging COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations throughout the U.S., including in Florida.  EPCOT, which reopened along with Disney Hollywood Studios this past week, is hosting its annual Food & Wine Festival, with kiosks of various food cuisines set up around the park. Accounts from some attendees on social media say that many guests at EPCOT and the other Disney parks had their masks off to eat while walking around.

Disney World’s parks have reopened with a limit on maximum capacity, though the exact limit has not been divulged by Disney. Guests must also have their temperature taken before entering the park, and ride vehicles have been modified with Plexiglas walls. Other Orlando parks such as Universal and SeaWorld have also opened.

“We are in a new normal right now, so what’s happening outside of the gates of Walt Disney World is our new world. We spent every minute of every day thinking about how to operate in this new normal that we’re in,” Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro told CNN Business.

“I’m exceptionally proud of this group in terms of what they’ve put together from a protocol perspective and being able to open in a phased and really responsible way… It feels really good in the park. So yeah, the world is a different place, but we feel really prepared to operate in this new environment that we’re in.”

But the reopening has been met with criticism and concern by some WDW employees. The Actors’ Equity Association — the U.S. labor union representing about 800 professional actors at Disney World — condemned Disney World’s decision to move forward with its reopening after the company canceled plans to reopen Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim.

Since then, Disney has reopened some shops at the Disneyland-adjacent Downtown Disney district, but the reopening of Disneyland itself isn’t expected any time soon, as California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the closing of all theme parks earlier this month after infections began increasing rapidly in the state. Hong Kong Disneyland also closed again this past week after a new outbreak of cases in that region.