In Disney

About Disney’s Unmasked Photo Policy

There have been a lot of opinions about Disney’s changed mask policy with respect to outdoor pictures, so let’s address them.

To recap, Walt Disney World has just changed its policy on facial coverings to state the following: 

Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members, including those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming. You may temporarily remove your face covering while actively eating, drinking or taking an outdoor photo*, but you must be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing during this time. (*Beginning April 8)

You can find the full text of Walt Disney World’s face covering policy right HERE.

So, in short, as of today, you may briefly remove your mask while stationary and actively taking an outdoor photo if you are also appropriately physically distanced.

Needless to say, this being the internet, this change brought forth all of the opinions, so let’s address them one by one.

To The Neutral Naysayers: 

  • This change came out of nowhere: No – this change came out of CDC guidance and a slow and steady process of response by Walt Disney World to balance the safety of its Cast Members and guests against the world’s growing understanding of COVID-19, the expanding availability of vaccines to vulnerable populations, and Disney’s ability to effectively implement and enforce its policies. 

To the People Who Think That This Change Took Too Long: 

  • For those of you who think that this change is coming too late, I hear you. My best friend from grade school is a pediatric ICU physician and very, very conservative in matters relating to COVID – and even she thought that the rule against briefly removing masks for photos outdoors was a bit off when she was visiting for a family trip last month. (In fact, she said it was the only case where it seemed like Disney had gone overboard in its COVID-related rules.) But keep in mind that Disney’s considerations on these matters need to go beyond bare bones CDC guidelines – and even beyond how permissions might be abused. Since the reopening – which was incredibly important to the welfare of not just Disney as a corporation but the Cast Members that they employ and the overall economic welfare of Central Florida, all eyes have been on Disney watching for a misstep. Whether people were appropriately masked at all times aside – if the pictures coming out of the parks were all unmasked, all people would see on social media and beyond would be unmasked people in the parks. The backlash against this, warranted or not, would have been a disaster.

To the People Who Think That This Change Shouldn’t Have Happened:

  • For those of you who are worried about the welfare of the Cast Members, I hear you. But please understand again that allowing people to remove their masks briefly for photographs while outdoors and socially distanced is fully in line with current CDC guidelines. Nothing about this goes against what is currently approved by the people who understand the risks far better than you or me and nothing about this isn’t in line with other practices already being successfully implemented in the parks.
  • For those of you who worry that people will abuse this “loophole”, I hear you. Give someone a inch, they’ll sometimes try to take a mile. But understand that Disney has been slow and steady in gradually making these sorts of changes to make sure that they have the means to enforce what they are implementing – and when there have been issues, they haven’t hesitated to make changes. The mask exception for eating and drinking is a great example. When people were abusing that by walking around unmasked with a drink in hand, Disney changed the rule to require that you be stationary and socially distanced while eating and drinking – and that’s still how the rule stands today. This approach has worked really well – and there’s absolutely no reason to think that a parallel rule for taking pictures, allowing masks to be removed briefly for outdoor, stationary, and socially distanced photos, will be any different. In fact, from a basic common sense standpoint, the risks associated with removing a masks for a few seconds while outside have got to be lower than the risks associated with removing a mask for the duration of a meal. 
  • For those of you who worry that the Cast Members will be dealing with even more angry guests with this change, I hear you. But firstly, people are going to be happier, not angrier, that they can leave Disney with pictures of their family’s faces. And again, enforcing the requirement to put masks back on after the picture is no different, at all, than reminding people to put masks back on after eating or drinking, cover their noses, etc. etc. etc. It’s the same thing that is already being done by Cast Members in 1,000 different situations throughout the parks. And if a guest chooses to ignore the rule – or berate a Cast Member about that or anything else – Disney won’t hesitate to escort you right out. And honestly, if you’re the kind of person that’s going to act that way, you’re going to find a reason to act that way. Because miserable people are always going to try to make the people around them miserable. Let’s not let the people who can even be nasty in the happiest place on earth dictate how we live our lives. Instead, take the time to show your gratitude to the incredible Cast Members who are working so hard every day to create magic that we’ve never needed more. I’ve been known to walk up to a Cast Member *while* some jerk is being rude to them, COVID-related or not, and tell them how amazing they are. It tends to shut the guest up fast – and let’s the CM know that they have far more allies than not.

I always joke that if you have as many people angry about you on one extreme side of an argument as the other that you’ve probably struck the balance just right. And that really does seem to be the case here. But hopefully the above helps a little more seriously to put your minds at ease about, and better understand, this decision and its timing. I continue to be incredibly impressed by Disney’s response to all of this. They are setting the standard for being smart but not reactionary. Innovative but humble enough to learn and adapt. In a world full of extremes right now, we could all stand to learn a lot from them.

Things aren’t wrong right now simply because they are more or less permissive. Changes aren’t always bad and knee jerk reactions against a community that is cautiously moving forward during these unprecedented times might just call for a little more introspection. Let’s walk into this next phase open minded, learn from each other with humility, and recognize that we are all doing our very best.

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You can find my complete guide to making the most of your runDisney race weekend RIGHT HERE. And while those are on hold, you can find my guide to running trails on Disney World property RIGHT HERE.

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Please join me on Instagram for my day-to-day adventures living a mile from the magic. And join the conversation over in our community on Facebook!

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If you’re planning a trip to Disney and want a fun way to rock a mask, check out my designs at TeePublic right HERE!! If you cannot or choose not to visit now and are looking for a way to bring the magic home, I’d love for you to check out my Core Memory Candle collection right HERE. And as always, stay safe and be kind, my friends.


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