“Masking” the Happiest Place on Earth

The epitome of the happiest place on earth, Walt Disney World. With Park attendance for Magic Kingdom at over twenty million alone (2019), families from across the world come to witness the magic that sits within the land.

With the pandemic raging on globally, Disney World and its fans have had to make difficult decisions when thinking about how to be able to see some “pixie dust” while still being safe.

From thousands of families making the difficult decision to not visit the Big Mouse’s house, to the Disney World itself making choices on how many people to limit coming through their doors. 2020 and 2021 have been a year full of ups and downs for all Disney lovers.

Walt Disney World closed for four months during March 2020 through half of July 2020. This was the longest closure of Disney Park to date. With the opening of the parks, Disney World had to enlist new park capacities as well as, mask mandates and new cleaning protocols. The most enforced rule being the mask mandate. Forcing those three and up to wear one at all times unless in designated areas to eat.

With these rules and regulations and park capacity lowered to 25% (in October 2020), many families have decided that the money spent wasn’t worth the way this new Disney looks. One family in particular juggling around what to do was the Wabick Family.

The Wabick’s have been going to Disney World the week after Thanksgiving for the past twenty-five years. Going up to three or four times per year to experience different seasons and festivities that Disney World offers. The family loves Disney World so much that the parents, Dave and Patricia, had their 25th wedding renewal there.

The news of Disney World’s new rules and regulations shocked the family to their core. They had to take in all the new details and weigh out if even going this year was worth the money. An idea that has never been in consideration before.

The mask mandate specifically is one that threw off the family of nine. Some family members suffering from severe panic attacks, such as the mother Patrica Wabick. “I don’t mind wearing a mask but wearing one for that long triggers panic attacks for me.” Son, Joseph Wabick adds, “I think the hardest part is not knowing if it will be hot. Having to wear a mask in 80-degree weather will trigger a panic attack for my mom.”

The family went on to explain how sometimes their mother will go to a space that’s empty and pull down the mask quickly to catch her breath. This sparks concerns for the family due to posts by Disney blogs and news sources across the web. “…an elderly Hollywood Studios visitor got into an argument and then was attacked by two strangers from a large family group who weren’t all wearing masks…” (Orlando Sentinel)

At the end of the day, the Wabick’s decided that last November wasn’t the time to go. With news such as the Florida COVID-19 response website stating that as of April 5th, all individuals 16 and up can receive the vaccine, the Wabick’s were hopeful for a more relaxed Disney experience. Days after finding out about the vaccine they received a link to a news story about Disney’s masks that shocked them yet again.

Guests ages two and up have to wear their masks even when sitting at their table for food. Guests may only take it off when fully eating, if you’re sitting and waiting then you must keep your mask on. This reduces the time off to breathe by another significant amount.

Another aspect of the mask mandate, having to still wear your mask even if you have gotten vaccinated. “I didn’t think they would allow only vaccinated people to their mask off, that would cause fights” he goes on to say, “I was expecting for the relaxation of the mask with the vaccine out, not tightening the rules,” says Dave Wabick, husband to Patricia.

 According to Fox 35 News Orlando, “precautions could ease some in 2022,” also stating how CEO Bob Chapek said, “…wearing masks, temperature checks at the entrance of the parks, and social distancing — will last through 2021.” This leaves the Wabick family and thousands of families like them wondering when the next time they will be able to visit a place that holds so much meaning to them.

The happiest place on earth is still providing magic for all those that wish to experience the “magic”. For some, the rules and regulations mean nothing, and seeing Mickey Mouse is the one thing that can bring pure bliss into this new normal life everyone is living in.

Yet for families like the Wabick’s and thousands like them, it might be another year until they can return to a place that they hold close to their heart.

Until the Wabick’s walk through Magic Kingdom tunnel to the tune of a Disney song battling the screams of happy families, while seeing the castle that’s a sprint distance away, they’re continuing making their own magic. A new, COVID-19 friendly magic in the heart of the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

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