The state set the new record by becoming a new epicenter of the coronavirus, accounting for about a fifth of all new cases in the United States. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted mask warrants and vaccine requirements, and along with the Florida legislature, has limited the ability of local authorities to impose measures designed to stop the spread of COVID-19. DeSantis on Friday banned school districts from forcing students to wear masks when school resumes next month.
The latest figures were recorded on Friday and published on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website on Saturday. The numbers show how quickly the number of cases is increasing in the Sunshine State: Just a day earlier, Florida reported 17,093 new cases daily. The previous peak in Florida was 19,334 reported cases on Jan. 7, before vaccine availability became widespread.
The Florida Hospital Association said on Friday that statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations were nearing last year’s peak, and one of the state’s largest healthcare systems, the Central Florida Division of AdventHealth, announced this week that it will no longer perform elective surgeries to free up resources for COVID-19 patients.
Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld on Saturday became the last theme park complexes in Florida to again ask visitors to wear masks indoors, with Universal also ordering its employees to wear face coverings to protect against COVID- 19, which has increased statewide.
On Saturday, all workers at Universal Park in Florida began being forced to wear masks indoors as workers resumed the practice of social distancing. The Harry Potter and Despicable Me Rides House has also asked visitors to follow federal and local health guidelines by voluntarily wearing face coverings indoors.
“The health and safety of our guests and our team members is always our top priority,” Universal said in a statement.
Health officials on Friday announced that coronavirus cases in Florida had jumped 50% over the past week, with COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the state approaching their peak last year.
SeaWorld posted on its website on Saturday that it recommends visitors follow the recently updated federal recommendations and wear face coverings indoors.
The policy change this week at theme park complexes came after the CDC recommended that everyone wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Crosstown’s rival Walt Disney World began forcing employees and guests over two to wear masks on Friday, but it also went further. The Walt Disney Company said in a statement that it will require all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the United States who work at the site to be fully immunized.
Disney employees who are not already vaccinated will have 60 days to do so and those who still work from home will need to show proof of vaccination before returning. Disney said it was discussing vaccine requirements with the union and added that all new hires will need to be fully vaccinated before they start working at the company.