Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Is Disney World Going Maskless This Summer?

By Rick Munarriz - May 15, 2021 at 7:03AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

The CDC says fully vaccinated people no longer need to mask up or observe social distancing. Disney isn't playing along right now, but it will as temperatures heat up in more ways than one.

The timing of Disney's (DIS 3.30%) quarterly earnings call on Thursday afternoon was perfect. Just hours before Disney was to offer up and discuss its fresh financials, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated folks can resume indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or staying socially distanced. 

The CDC update sent ripples through the amusement park industry and within hours Pennsylvania's Hersheypark lifted its requirements for face coverings and social distancing for guests who have completed the COVID-19 vaccination process. Would Disney -- the world's largest theme park operator -- follow suit? The short answer is "not yet," but we could be there a lot sooner than you might think.

Mickey Mouse in front of the Magic Kingdom castle in Disney World.

Image source: Disney.

Behind the mask

Disney World in Florida has been open for 10 months. The original Disneyland in California finally unlocked its turnstiles two weeks ago. Neither resort has had a problem selling the limited number of daily admissions available, even with face covering and social distancing requirements putting a clinical damper on the experience. It's the new normal, and Disney has done its part to make sure that its busy gated attractions aren't a hotbed of pandemic-spreading activity. 

Even before Thursday's surprising CDC announcement, Disney and its smaller rivals were already starting to pull back on safety regulations. This week alone we've seen Disney World eliminate temperature screenings at park entrances and now it's eliminating the floor markers that kept guests 6 feet apart in ride queues. 

Masks remain the most cumbersome of requirements, but it's hard to argue against face coverings when COVID-19 has taken nearly 600,000 lives in this country alone. However, with the CDC now siding with studies showing that the risks are minimal for folks once two weeks past the final vaccination dose things are going to start returning to normal fairly quickly. 

"Obviously, today's guidance that we got from the CDC in terms of those that were vaccinated do not necessarily need to wear masks anymore, both outdoors and indoors, is very big news for us, particularly if anybody's been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on," CEO Bob Chapek said during Thursday's call. "That could be quite daunting so we think that's going to make for an even more pleasant experience."

In short, Disney World will need time to consider the new CDC guidance and how it can be implemented in its parks. What will happen to children younger than 12 that currently aren't eligible for the vaccine? Will it be feasible or even legal for Disney to require proof of vaccination? Some questions will be harder to answer than others, but things are starting to open up one way or another.

Disney World is immediately increasing capacity at its theme parks, up from the 35% cap it had before. Chapek's language also makes it seem like masks will be gone by next month when the peak summer travel season starts. If not, he just gave his marketing team a doozy of an assignment trying to push Disney World getaways this summer after pointing out how challenging masks are to wear in the middle of Florida's hot and humid season.

With the pent-up demand from folks stuck at home for the past year and change, it's not a surprise to see many travel and tourism stocks start springing back to life as things start returning to normal. Disney World won't take long to get back to peak performance, especially with a major 18-month celebration in the works to celebrate the resort turning 50 come October. It was widely expected that safety requirements would be all but gone by then, but now it's starting to seem like you'll be able to party like it's 2019 as soon as this summer at Disney World. It's something to smile about -- especially if you're fully vaccinated and can show fellow park guests that smile soon.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

The Walt Disney Company Stock Quote
The Walt Disney Company
DIS
$121.57 (3.30%) $3.88

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
389%
 
S&P 500 Returns
125%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/12/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.