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Disney World is increasing capacity following latest CDC guidance, CEO says

Disney says it will "continue to follow the guidance of health and safety leaders going forward" and will "encourage people to get vaccinated."
Credit: AP
Visitors wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, take a selfie at the Hong Kong Disneyland on Thursday, June 18, 2020. Hong Kong Disneyland on Thursday opened its doors to visitors for the first time in nearly five months, at a reduced capacity and with social distancing measures in place. The theme park closed temporarily at the end of January due to the coronavirus outbreak, and is the second Disney-themed park to re-open worldwide, after Shanghai Disneyland. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

ORLANDO, Fla. — The "Happiest Place on Earth" has started letting more people into its theme parks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an announcement Thursday easing mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people. 

During an earnings call Thursday, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the parks had already started to raise capacity limits with the CDC's guidance and guidance that came from Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

"So, I think you’re going to see an immediate increase in the number of folks that we're able to admit into our parks through our reservation systems that we recently implemented. So, we’re very, very excited about that," Chapek said. 

He also called the new guidance from the CDC regarding fully vaccinated people being able to stop wearing masks outdoors and in most indoor settings 'big news' for Disney as a whole.

"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," Chapek explained. "Particularly if anybody's been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on. That could be quite daunting, so we think that's going to make for an even more pleasant experience."

According to Chapek, there were some bright spots for theme park innovation during the pandemic. The company was able to take advantage of making improvements to operating procedures, technology and new ticketing strategies.

The theme-park giant will look into creating a modern version of a "park loyalty program" that doesn't necessarily focus on legacy.

While furloughs rained down on the entertainment industry in 2020, Disney says it has been able to return about 80 percent of its cast members. The return of employees is a key step in helping the theme parks continue to increase capacity, according to Chapek.

"I don't think we've even scratched the surface in terms of what we can do when we finally restart with some of our programs," he added, in part.

Walt Disney World announced earlier this month it would phase out onsite temperature screenings for cast members beginning May 8 and guests on May 16.  

Disney says it will "continue to follow the guidance of health and safety leaders going forward" and will "encourage people to get vaccinated."

Walt Disney World first required temperature screenings when it reopened in July 2020 after being shut down due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. 

You can find the resort's COVID-19 safety information here. 

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