Thursday, January 27, 2022

Busch Gardens lifts many mask requirements; Guests will be on the “honor system”

(WYDaily/Courtesy of Busch Gardens)
(WYDaily/Courtesy of Busch Gardens)

WILLIAMSBURG — Busch Gardens Williamsburg (BGW) has discontinued many of the park’s mask restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated. The announcement follows Gov. Northam’s recent announcement regarding lifting mask mandates throughout the Commonwealth in alignment with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On Friday, May 14, Gov. Northam announced a lift on several aspects of Virginia’s universal mask mandate in alignment with recent guidance from the CDC. In kind, BGW, located at 1 Busch Gardens Blvd. in Williamsburg, has also lifted many of its mask restrictions.

RELATED STORY: Gov. Northam lifts mask mandate in alignment with CDC

Both the CDC and the governor have stated that those who are considered fully vaccinated (either two weeks following the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two weeks following the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines) no longer have to wear masks while engaging in activities in both outdoor and indoor settings, regardless of group sizes.

However, these restrictions are not universal. Businesses can still require that patrons wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Masks will also still be required in medical settings.

Additionally, the guidance provides that those that work in certain industries, such as food service, fitness, retail, and in Virginia’s public school systems, must continue to wear masks.

It is also important to note that those who are ineligible for the vaccine or have immunocompromising conditions or take medications that render them immunocompromised should speak to their physician prior to “de-masking.”

Those who are not yet considered fully vaccinated must continue to follow masking protocols.

BGW announced soon thereafter that it would comply with the governor’s latest announcement by allowing guests who are fully vaccinated to not wear masks at its two local parks. This comes just over two weeks following the park’s announcement that it will no longer perform temperature screenings at the entrance gate.

RELATED STORY: Busch Gardens Discontinues Gate Temperature Screenings

A statement issued by the park said, “Face coverings will no longer be required for guests at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA for fully vaccinated in accordance with CDC guidance.”

However, BGW will not require that a guest show proof of vaccination status before being admitted into the park without a face mask. Thus, putting all guests on the “honor system.”

BGW and its nearby water park, Water Country USA, 176 Water Country Pkwy. in York County, will continue to require that all employees wear face coverings at all times.

“The safety of our guests, Ambassadors and animals in our care remains our top priority.”

When asked what Virginia Department of Health (VDH)‘s stance was on BGW’s new policy and on how it is not requiring proof of vaccination for unmasked guests, VDH issued the following response to WYDaily:

“While Virginia’s mask guidance allows for people who are fully vaccinated to not wear a mask in most settings, the governor’s executive order does not require proof of vaccination be provided. Private businesses are free to determine how they want to address the wearing of masks on their premises. Virginia Department of Health will not be responsible for the enforcement of a private business’ mask policy. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated persons should continue to wear their masks.”

Kings Dominion in Doswell has not yet changed its policy regarding requiring guests to wear masks. Maggie Sellers, spokesperson for the park, said, “Our teams are evaluating the impact of these changes at our park, next steps and timing. We are working on an update.”

For more information regarding Kings Dominion’s current safe reopening policy, click here.

BGW would not elaborate further regarding the parks not requiring proof of vaccination nor how it plans to mitigate possible issues that may occur due to this lack of accountability regarding guest vaccination status.

This is a continuing story. WYDaily will keep you up-to-date as more information becomes available. 

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