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Disney World tightens its mask policy and bans eating while walking

TODAY logo TODAY 7/20/2020 Erica Chayes Wida

On July 11, Disney World reopened its glistening gates to customers eager to experience lines at limited capacity. But amidst a global pandemic, the most magical place on earth came with some stipulations.

After nearly four months of being shut down, Disney World announced the process to reopen its parks in time for summer vacations. Amidst rising coronavirus cases in Florida, the park first opened its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom sections with reduced reservations to mitigate overcrowding.

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To enter the park, all guests are required to wear masks and receive temperature checks to ensure they are not symptomatic. People are permitted to remove their masks while eating — because, hey, eating an ice cream cone on a 95-degree day under a cloth mask can be somewhat tricky. This rule, however, left room for visitors to snag a soft pretzel or a refreshment and walk around, eating or drinking, without their mask. Now, that's changed.

As of Monday, following the park's opening EPCOT (its park designed for tasting international foods while strolling) and Disney Hollywood Studios on July 15, Disney World updated and tightened its face coverings policy to axe the eating while walking loophole.

According to the website, all guests ages 2 and older and Disney cast members must bring their own two-layer masks that cover the nose and mouth and wear them at all times. The guidelines say masks can be removed while someone is "actively eating or drinking" but people "should be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing."

A Disney spokesperson did not return TODAY Food's request for comment on the policy shift or whether the park will open more designated areas outside of dining or picnic areas for people to sit down and eat without their masks.

So far, people who opted for crowded amusement parks during a pandemic weren't enthused.

Other tweeters hoped "new rules" were enough to protect patrons from the virus amid the park's reopening.

On July 10, the day before Disney reopened, Florida reported 11,433 new COVID-19 cases, the state's biggest daily increase since July 3, when 11,458 cases were recorded. Florida's health department reported 435 more hospitalizations — the state's largest single-day increase. The following day, Florida reported an additional 421 new hospitalizations as well as 10,360 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 254,511. The statewide COVID-19 death toll surpassed 4,200 on July 11.

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