A guide to beaches, Orlando theme parks and where to wear masks

Blue skies, lots of beach, lots of sun. At this time of year, Florida is ideal for spring breakers — even during a pandemic.

That was not the case in 2020 and parts of 2021 as the coronavirus and COVID variants either canceled events or prevented people from traveling here.

With the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention easing its face-covering restrictions and a higher rate of vaccination in the U.S., spring break 2022 in Florida could happen. Given the changes from the CDC, health experts say this may be the first step in shifting the U.S. to an “endemic phase” of the pandemic.

After a rough winter with the omicron variant, COVID cases continue to decline in Florida. In the week ending Feb. 27, Florida ranked No. 31 in the nation where coronavirus spreads the fastest, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Last week, the state department of health had added 25,523 cases of the virus, and that figure was down 39.8% from the previous week’s tally.

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To compare, at the peak of the omicron spread, Florida ranked fifth in the nation where the virus spreads the fastest in the week ending Jan. 9, reporting 423,150 cases, a 40% rise from the week before.

If you’re planning to spend spring break in Florida amid the COVID pandemic, here’s a guide.

Are beaches in Florida closed?

No. Most public beaches in Florida were briefly closed early on in the pandemic in March 2020 under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “safer at home” order, but were largely “open” (with restrictions) a month later.

The “safer at home” order encouraged Floridians to stay at home through April 30, 2020; however, some beaches in the Sunshine State remained open. Jacksonville notably reopened its beaches April 17, 2020.

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Are masks required in Florida?

Masks are not required in community settings per a statewide, noncompulsory COVID policy announced last month by DeSantis (link below).

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Also, per new CDC guidelines, more than 70% of Americans can take off their masks indoors. Health experts say the guidelines were updated because the vast majority of vulnerable Americans are fully vaccinated. As of Thursday, March 3, CDC data show 691,748,065 total vaccine doses distributed and 554,168,735 total doses administered.

However, the CDC advises people who are at higher risk of severe disease from COVID — or those who live with people who are at risk — to take extra precautions.

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Are masks required in restaurants, grocery stores in Florida?

The CDC recommends indoor masking for everyone only in communities at a high risk level for COVID-19 based on hospitalizations, local hospital capacity and new infections.

Are masks required at Universal Orlando?

Masks are not required at any of Universal Orlando Resort’s three parks: Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios and Volcano Bay.

Universal Orlando also doesn’t require proof of vaccination, but guests who are experiencing COVID symptoms are asked to refrain from visiting.

“Fully vaccinated guests will no longer be required to wear face coverings indoors or outdoors effective, Saturday, February 12,” the resort said in a statement via senior manager of public relations Kristen Clark Smith. “Guests who have not been vaccinated will be encouraged to wear face coverings while indoors.”

Masks also aren’t required at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk, an entertainment hub with shops, restaurants and bars, but they are encouraged for those who have not been vaccinated.

As of Feb. 12, 2022: Do you have to wear a mask at Universal Orlando? Not if you’re vaccinated

Are masks required at Disney World?

In mid-February, Walt Disney World in Orlando announced vaccinated guests could be mask-free at all indoor locations in its four parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.

Masks, however, are required for those 2 and older on Disney buses, monorails, the Skyliner and other enclosed Disney transportation.

Guests who have not gotten a COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged to wear masks indoors: “We expect guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings in all indoor locations, including indoor attractions and theaters,” a message on the Walt Disney World site states.

Guests will not be required to provide proof of vaccination.

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Are masks required at Kennedy Space Center?

Masks are encouraged, but not required for guests who have been inoculated with the COVID vaccine.

Effective Friday, March 4, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will no longer require fully vaccinated guests to wear face coverings while at the facility — this includes indoor theaters, gift shops and bus tours. Unvaccinated guests are encouraged to wear face coverings indoors.

Are masks required at SeaWorld Orlando?

Though they are not required, masks are encouraged indoors at SeaWorld Orlando and its water park Aquatica, according to the theme park’s website. Guests are not required to show proof of vaccination.

Are masks required at Busch Gardens in Tampa?

Though they are not required, masks are encouraged indoors at Busch Gardens, according to the theme park’s website. Guests are not required to show proof of vaccination.

What is COVID-19 like in Florida?

If you’re planning to travel to Florida, you can check the CDC’s new COVID-19 Community Levels tool, which helps travelers decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID cases in an area, the CDC site states. A map shows the COVID level by county. Visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Do you need to show a vaccination card?

No. While it is a good idea to keep your vaccine card with you when traveling, you are not required to show it when you enter a restaurant, grocery store, entertainment venue, theme park or beach in Florida.

Should I go to Florida for spring break?

Depends on your comfortability. The Sunshine State has lots to offer for entertainment — the beaches, theme parks, state parks, to name a few. This time of year, the weather resembles a Florida postcard, with plenty of sun and a hint of a cool breeze in the mornings and evenings.

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When should I not go to Florida?

Do not travel if you are sick, tested positive for COVID-19 and haven’t ended isolation, had close contact with a person with COVID-19 and haven’t ended quarantine, or are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test.

If you are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines and must travel, get tested both before and after your trip.

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What is the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19?

Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID in your communities.

The same precautions still apply:

• wash your hands

• social distance

• wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of germs

• avoid crowds in which you are unsure of vaccination status

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Contributing: Eve Chen, USA TODAY, Britt Kennerly, FLORIDA TODAY, Jeff Schweers, USA TODAY Network-Florida

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: COVID Florida spring break: Beaches, theme parks. Are masks required?