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Some face mask policies are changing at Tampa Bay entertainment venues

Many are simply encouraging all to wear face masks because of the new CDC recommendations, but some are going to require them indoors.
Patrons of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay prepare to ride a shuttle from a parking lot to the park’s entrance on Aug. 2.
Patrons of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay prepare to ride a shuttle from a parking lot to the park’s entrance on Aug. 2. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 2
Updated Aug. 3

In light of new federal health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suggest some vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors, local attractions and museums are revisiting their policies on face coverings. Walt Disney World announced last week that it would require all guests to wear face masks while indoors. Few are following Disney’s lead and requiring face coverings inside, but most local entertainment venues have beefed up their policies to strongly encourage them.

Related: Florida sets coronavirus daily case record, according to CDC reports

Disney’s announcement comes on the heels of the CDC’s latest recommendation that vaccinated Americans should wear masks indoors if they are in areas with high or substantial transmissibility of the COVID-19 virus. Florida has been among the states hit hardest by a dramatic summer surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations nationwide as the highly contagious delta variant spreads through unvaccinated populations.

Here are what local attractions and museums tell us has changed:

Patrons of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay walk from a parking lot to the park’s entrance on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tampa. The park has beefed up its wording to "strongly encourage" mask wearing regardless of vaccination status, especially indoors.
Patrons of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay walk from a parking lot to the park’s entrance on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tampa. The park has beefed up its wording to "strongly encourage" mask wearing regardless of vaccination status, especially indoors. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Masks required indoors

The Dalí Museum: Masks are required for all visitors — even those who are vaccinated — while indoors at the museum, marketing director Beth Bell said in an email.

David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts: The performing arts center’s policy on masks has not changed: All guests, staff and volunteers are required to be masked indoors.

Florida Holocaust Museum: “Starting Aug. 4, we will be required everyone visiting the museum wear a mask. That is in accordance with CDC guidelines and what most museums are doing,” said Sharon Boyes, director of strategic advancement at the Florida Holocaust Museum.

The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art: This museum in downtown St. Petersburg is now requiring masks for visitors and staff. “Since reopening the museum in June 2020, we have been intentional in our approach to caring for our community and will continue to do so,” community engagement manager Malynda Washington wrote in an email. “In response to the rapid increase of COVID cases in Pinellas County, the James Museum will require face coverings for all visitors, staff and volunteers regardless of vaccination status. These requirements are likely to change again and we will keep you updated as guidance and recommendations evolve.”

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: The Brevard County space center has updated its face mask policy to require masks indoors, even for vaccinated visitors. “All guests, including those vaccinated against COVID-19, are required to wear face coverings in all indoor locations,” read the update on the complex’s website. Indoor locations include all attractions at the complex, attraction queues, show viewing areas, restaurants and buses. Fully vaccinated visitors are not required to wear face masks when outdoors. kennedyspacecenter.com.

St. Petersburg Museum of History: “As of Aug. 1, we will be requiring masks regardless of vaccination status just for everyone’s safety,” said Macey Wilson, marketing director.

Tampa Bay History Center: Nicole Conner, chief of staff at the Tampa Bay History Center, said all guests 2 and older must wear a face covering. “This is in accordance with CDC guidelines and Hillsborough County administrative directive MS-19,” she said.

Visitors line up to enter the museum. Each guest must enter one at a time and have their temperature taken using a thermal camera, at the Dali Museum, on Friday, July 31, 2020 in St. Petersburg.
Visitors line up to enter the museum. Each guest must enter one at a time and have their temperature taken using a thermal camera, at the Dali Museum, on Friday, July 31, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

Masks encouraged indoors

Busch Gardens and SeaWorld: The Orlando and Tampa theme parks, both owned by SeaWorld Entertainment, updated their policies to now recommend strongly that guests wear face coverings at all indoor locations in the park, regardless of whether they are vaccinated. “The safety of our guests, ambassadors and animals in our care remains our top priority. Consistent with CDC guidance, we recommend that our guests wear face coverings while indoors.”

Related: Disney will require most of its employees to get coronavirus vaccine

Universal Orlando: Universal now requires its employees to wear face masks, but it is only encouraging them for guests. “We encourage all our guests to follow CDC guidelines and local directives to wear face coverings while indoors across our destination. ... All team members will wear face coverings while working indoors in guest areas and all will continue to practice social distancing,” said a statement from Kristen Clark Smith, senior manager public relations Universal Orlando Resort.

ZooTampa at Lowry Park: A zoo spokeswoman said starting Monday, all employees were wearing masks indoors and outdoors, with one exception: “Employees who are fully vaccinated, have shown proof of vaccination to HR and have received a sticker to wear on their nametag are allowed to remove masks,” when they are outdoors and in the back office areas, while still maintaining 6 feet of social distancing, a zoo statement said. Regardless of their vaccination status, employees will have to wear a mask when working the front gate, when indoors in the park and at encounters such as assisting with loading guests on rides.

As for zoo guests, the new policy states: “ZooTampa is principally an outdoor fresh-air experience; therefore, when outside on zoo grounds, guests who maintain proper social distancing are not required to wear face masks. However, every guest entering the zoo is strongly encouraged to wear a mask, and ZooTampa will provide disposable masks free of charge to anyone who needs one.”

Amalie Arena/Yuengling Center: An emailed statement from Angela Lanza, director of event marketing for both venues said, “The well-being of our guests and staff is our top priority. As new health and safety protocols based on current public health recommendations, including those set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local agencies, we will evaluate our current policies and implement those.

“Currently our face covering policy is that all coverings must cover both the nose and mouth and are recommended to be worn in-arena and on arena grounds (including parking lots, outdoor areas, and plazas), except when actively eating and drinking. At this time, we will continue with that recommendation.”

Ruth Eckerd Hall/Bilheimer Capitol Theatre: The Clearwater venues are sticking with their current policy, which means masks are not required for guests. “At this moment our service employees continue to wear masks and our guests self-regulate,” Katie Pedretty, director of public relations, wrote in an email. “Our sanitization protocols continue including our new and effective air purification system which is filtering and replacing air at a high rate.”

Mahaffey Theater: According to the venue’s website: “Guests are recommended to wear face coverings while inside the venue.”

Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg: The museum has revised its policy to reflect the CDC’s recent recommendation. “To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are strongly urging all visitors to wear a mask and social distance while in the museum,” Lashonda Curry, manager of communications and public relations, said in an email.

Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art: The Tarpon Springs museum is not requiring masks at this time, but is encouraging them. Executive director Teresa Wilkins stated in an email: “Here at the Leepa-Rattner, we must follow COVID-19 protocols put in place by the State of Florida as we are part of St. Petersburg College. Currently these have not been revised to require masks, however we are ‘strongly encouraging’ masks from all visitors here at the museum. Staff are also strongly encouraged to be masked at all times.”

Florida Museum of Photographic Arts: The museum’s staff is masked, and masks are strongly recommended for visitors. Masks are available at the front desk if needed, according to executive director Zora Carrier.

Great Explorations Children’s Museum: The Great Explorations website states that all guests over the age of 5 should wear a mask. Crowds inside the museum are limited to allow for social distancing.

A guest in a face mask watches as rays swim in the Stingray Beach exhibit when the Florida Aquarium reopened last June. Managers say they are working closely with public health officials but are so far not requiring them indoors, though they are strongly encouraged.
A guest in a face mask watches as rays swim in the Stingray Beach exhibit when the Florida Aquarium reopened last June. Managers say they are working closely with public health officials but are so far not requiring them indoors, though they are strongly encouraged. [ Florida Aquarium ]

Florida Aquarium: The aquarium’s executive team has been consulting with local public health officials for guidance, a spokesman said. “As of today, fully vaccinated guests have the option of not wearing a mask, while all staff and volunteers must continue to wear face coverings in public places,” an aquarium statement said.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium: The aquarium now recommends all guests wear masks while indoors. As for employees: “Following current CDC guidelines, guests and CMA personnel who have had their vaccines will not be required to wear a face coverings onsite, but face coverings are recommended for all guests indoors,” a statement said. “Everyone is asked to wear a face covering when participating in animal interactions or direct animal contact to protect our animals. It is requested that non-vaccinated guests continue to wear face coverings onsite.”

Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center: Masks are required for all staff who engage the public. Guests are strongly encouraged to wear masks, and disposable masks are available for free at the Guest Services desk.

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