Cases have ticked up around the country as businesses open up and the delta variant spreads but Florida accounts for around one-fifth of all cases in the U.S.
Florida’s previous single-day record had been the 19,334 cases reported Jan. 7 this year before vaccines were widely available. Around 60% of Floridians age 12 and older are vaccinated, ranking it about midway among the states.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted mandatory mask mandates and vaccine requirements and on Friday he barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month.
“A lot of these kids suffered under wearing these masks,” DeSantis said Saturday on Fox News’ “Unfiltered with Dan Bongino.” “There’s a lot of harms that come with it and I think we’re basically empowering the parents to be able to recognize what’s best for their kids and I think in most instances what’s best for the kids from the parents’ perspective is going to be going to school mask-free.”
The governor has blamed the virus surge on the hot weather forcing Floridians inside with circulating air conditioning.
Disney World in Orlando and other theme parks in the Sunshine State are also asking visitors to wear masks again after previously removing the mandate following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance on Tuesday recommending masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Disney announced Friday it will require all salaried and non-union hourly employees not working remotely to get vaccinated.
The state reported 409 deaths in the last week of July, bringing the total to more than 39,000 since its first in March 2020. The state’s peak happened in mid-August 2020, when 1,266 people died over a seven-day period. Deaths usually follow increases in hospitalizations by a few weeks.
The Florida Hospital Association said Friday that statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations are nearing last year’s peak, and one of the state’s largest health care systems, AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division, last week advised it would no longer be conducting non-emergency surgeries in order to free up resources for COVID-19 patients.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.