Disney says it will enforce a strict policy on wearing masks as it prepares to reopen Disney World on Saturday — but there’s a notable exception that’s raising eyebrows.
The Orlando, Fla.-based theme park has designated a handful of “relaxation zones,” where guests are allowed to remove their face coverings — and some of them are indoors.
Disney fan blogs WDW News Today and Inside the Magic revealed the locations tucked away in the Magic Kingdom and at Animal Kingdom. The first mask-free oasis is at Pete’s Silly Sideshow, a dimly lit space sprinkled with round wooden tables inside a tented room at Storybook Circus.
The second is at Pizzafari, a pizza canteen turned maskless sanctuary with a safari theme. The room is adorned with wallpaper of cartoon reptiles and several colorful dining tables. A third location, at the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant, is a large, covered, open-air banquet space, known for its dessert buffet during Disney World’s nightly fireworks spectacle.
The indoor, air-conditioned, mask-free areas offer respite from the sweltering summer heat, and Disney notes that tables will be spaced 10 feet apart. Nevertheless, they appear to be flouting the advice of many health experts, who have emphasized the importance of wearing a mask in indoor public spaces as COVID-19 hits record highs in Florida.
A spokeswoman from Disney World confirmed the company’s decision to include indoor, mask-free spaces, telling The Post: “Each park offers at least one indoor location with A/C,” and that “there is physical distancing and a limited number of guests” that are allowed.
This week, Disney began phased reopening of both US parks, which have been shuttered since mid-March. Attendees at the reopening of Disneyland’s shopping district on Thursday captured hordes of people standing shoulder to shoulder in stores.
Rich Greenfield, an analyst at research firm LightShed, tweeted photos of crowds from Disney World’s employee day, which served as a soft reopening for the Magic Kingdom.
“This definitely looks like a good idea ,” the analyst tweeted sarcastically on Tuesday, before turning to a photo of a crowd waiting to get on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride. “Looks like Walt Disney World has social distancing nailed @GovDeSantis,” he wrote, tagging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The tweets come as COVID-19 cases are spiking in both Florida and California, to the tune of more than 8,000 a day. On Friday, California said it logged more than 300,000 positive cases, and Florida said it amassed more than 232,000 cases.
In June, as cases climbed, Disney World unions and petitioners urged Disney and Gov. DeSantis to delay the reopening of the theme park.
The Actor’s Equity Association, which represents 750 Disney World performers, called for Disney to test employees for the virus as a condition to return to work since social distancing was not practiced. Disney declined that union’s demands and “locked out” union members from returning to work “in retaliation,” the group claimed in a Thursday lawsuit.
“Disney, I have no doubt, is going to be a safe environment,” Gov. DeSantis said during a press conference Tuesday. “I think that where you start to see the spread is just in social situations where people let their guard down. Usually like a private party or something like that.”
Daniel Uhlfelder, a Florida lawyer, who sued DeSantis in March when he opened the beaches, told The Post that the governor’s laissez-faire attitude is “utter chaos.”
“The governor is taking a hands-off approach,” said Uhlfelder, who is best known for suiting up as the Grim Reaper to educate Floridians about wearing masks and social distancing.
“The virus doesn’t respect county barriers,” he said. “I love Florida. I’m a second-generation Floridian. It’s like I’m watching a family member get mangled by this president and this governor.”