Universal Orlando Resort will no longer require guests to wear masks in outdoor spaces, according to their new COVID-19 safety guidelines released Friday.
These changes came one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance for people who’ve been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Under the new guidance, people two or more weeks past their final vaccination don’t need to wear masks or physically distance when private, local, state, and federal rules permit. Universal Orlando, along with many other Florida theme park resorts, had required staff and guests to wear face coverings at all times since reopening last summer.
Guests at Universal Orlando hotels and theme parks, regardless of their vaccination status, are still required to wear masks indoors, in lines, and while riding and exiting theme park attractions. Three feet of physical distancing — down from the previous six — is still required, and theme parks are operating at a limited capacity and may restrict entry at any time. You can read Universal Orlando Resort’s full safety guidelines here.
As COVID-19 vaccination totals across the United States increase, various restrictions are beginning to loosen. Major League Baseball teams are increasing their stadium capacity, the island country of French Polynesia opened to U.S. travelers, and Las Vegas casinos are opening fully. Walt Disney World adjusted its mask requirements soon after Universal Orlando’s decision.
These developments come with some unease. National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in the U.S., called for the CDC to reduce their relaxed guidance for unvaccinated individuals: “This newest CDC guidance is not based on science, does not protect public health, and threatens the lives of patients, nurses, and other frontline workers across the country,” said Bonnie Castillo, the union’s executive director. “Now is not the time to relax protective measures, and we are outraged that the CDC has done just that while we are still in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century.”
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, defended the health agency’s new recommendations on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
“This was not permission to shed masks for everybody everywhere. This was really science driven, individual assessment of your risk.”
The CDC says vaccinated individuals’ risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 is minimal. Masks are still required for everyone in healthcare settings and on planes and other modes of public transportation; learn more about the CDC’s recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals here. They advise people who aren’t yet fully vaccinated to follow full COVID-19 prevention measures.
“We are asking people to be honest with themselves,” Walensky said. “If they are vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are safe. If they are not vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are not safe.”