Universal Orlando Resort announced today that it has reduced its physical distancing standard, for the first time putting a top 10 U.S. theme park at odds with CDC health recommendations.
Universal will end temperature checks and reduce physical distancing to three feet, down from the current six feet. The CDC continues to recommend six feet of distancing for people while out in public, though the agency recently reduced that number to three feet for schoolchildren under specific conditions.
While it's possible that the CDC may reduce its general distancing standard to three feet as well, the agency has not yet done that. Up until now, when top theme parks' Covid prevention rules have differed from CDC guidelines, they have been more restrictive than the federal government's guidance, not less.
"We’re excited to enhance your Universal experience with the latest safety updates from local health and government officials," Universal posted on its website. "There are no more temperature checks upon entry. And Social Distancing between travel parties is now reduced to three feet (1 meter). Still, most of our original safety protocols remain unchanged—from wearing face coverings across our Resort to our ongoing dedication to cleanliness and sanitization."
The State of Florida this week ended all Covid health restrictions, even though Florida remains among the worst 10 states in the nation for the spread of Covid-19, with an average case rate about 40% higher than the national average, according to Washington Post data.
Universal Orlando will continue to require visitors to wear masks, which the CDC recommends for people outside in crowds or while indoors. Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and SeaWorld Orlando continue to promote mask use, temperature checks and six feet of physical distancing when physical barriers are not available, according to safety guidance posted on their respective websites.
That said, policy and compliance have been two very different things, not just at Universal Orlando but at pretty much every business in the nation over the past months. Crowds move fluidly through theme parks, and parties often come within six feet of each other on pathways. In queues, maintaining six feet of distance between parties is often inconsistent, despite floor markings. Universal Orlando has been hitting self-imposed capacity limits frequently over the past few months, so reducing the physical distancing standard could allow the resort to admit more guests to its parks.
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