Disney World requires guests to wear masks to enter its resorts in Florida. But when guests violate that policy, Disney is adding one for them.
Disney World’s Mask Policy
Walt Disney World Resorts and Parks have been rather clear that face coverings are required. The company will continue to expect guests to wear face coverings except when actively eating or drinking. That rule allows for those to remove their masks/face coverings while actively eating and drinking when stationary, but they cannot actively move throughout the park without a mask. This is to avoid those that may choose to “milk” a drink for hours standing in line for a ride without wearing their mask and encourage them to follow the rules.
Cast members have been tasked with keeping up with the Disney magic while enforcing the regulation. While Disney Parks are predominantly outside in the open air, common touchpoints and close proximity to others make masks a part of social-distance compliance as outlined by Governor DeSantis with regard to Florida theme parks. While the Phase 3 re-opening plan doesn’t specifically dictate the requirement of masks, virus mitigation methods could open Disney to litigation if problems are encountered.
Digitally Adding/Blocking Out-of-Compliance Riders
Initially, Disney World fan facebook groups had reported that some were unable to purchase photos of themselves on rides if fellow riders didn’t have a face mask visible in the photo. This week, WDW News Today confirmed some riders’ claims that masks had been digitally added to those out-of-compliance with the mask policy. Disney confirmed this:
“In response to guest requests, we tested modifying some ride photos. We are no longer doing this and continue to expect guests to wear face coverings except when actively eating or drinking while stationary,” Disney said in a statement provided by spokesperson Jacquee Wahler.”
A USA Today article that covered the development added this:
“It looks like her mask fell off one ear and is hanging on her other ear,” the commenter said, noting that Dinosaur (ride) is such a “bumpy” attraction that it might have caused her face covering to fall off.”
While Disney admits it made photos of riders without a mask unavailable for purchase, it then changed its policy But by Disney adding masks to some riders where it might have simply fallen off, it also suggested that the riders may have been violators in need of correction.
May Discourage Violators
This country is divided in many ways, and masks are just another one of those divisions. One argument suggests that by not selling images of those out-of-compliance riders, they were making it clear that Disney noticed and didn’t appreciate it. For those looking to make a political statement or who just wanted a picture of their face in the photos from their Disney World trip – they also got the message, masks are required. Those who might consider taking their masks off during the ride where cast members were powerless to intervene might be discouraged that a mask was digitally added and choose not to remove it in the first place.
Health Theater and Virtue Signaling, Not Safety
Others would argue that this is health theater and virtue-signaling but not a safety concern. If masks are to be worn to protect parkgoers from COVID-19 then adding a mask digitally to riders in photos is nothing more than trying to keep up the appearances of safety and compliance. It’s sending a message that masks are more than a virus mitigation tool, they are part of Disney culture, and those who choose not to comply will be made to look as though they were in compliance, even though they were not.
This is as much about safety as checking luggage for a bomb after it arrived. The real-world threat that may have existed (just because they were maskless in the photo doesn’t mean they have and spread the virus) either happened or didn’t on the ride. Adding a digital mask did nothing to protect riders nor to penalize those who failed to comply.
It’s the appearance of safety, virtue-signaling at the most obvious level.
It’s a confusing time for any business right now, Disney has a particularly public and difficult one to manage. They need to welcome visitors in a safe manner but it’s like wrangling cats. That said, real masks are required to prevent a real virus, from infecting real people. Adding a digital mask is of no use, no value, and feels a lot more like virtue-signaling to me than even the best intended acts. Disney admits and confirms as much by discontinuing the practice one day after it was widely reported. The use of unnecessary health theater that delivers no health value is what some experts are saying contributes to fatigue around the virus and why so many are flouting orders. This is one of those examples.
What do you think? Was Disney right or wrong to digitally add masks to riders who didn’t have one visible in a photo?