Florida is experiencing a dramatic surge in new confirmed coronavirus cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Sunshine State recorded more than 21,000 new infections on Friday, marking its highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic. Florida’s previous peak was 19,334 confirmed cases on Jan. 7, 2021, well before the COVID-19 vaccines were widely available.
That new data comes amid growing calls to reinstate mask mandates, as the United States is experiencing a Delta variant-fueled spike in coronavirus cases. On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that prohibits schools from requiring students to wear masks in the fall, saying the decision should be up to the parents rather than school officials.
“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” the GOP governor said in a press release. “Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children.”
According to the CDC, about 50 percent of Florida residents are fully vaccinated and about 58 percent have received at least one shot.
Disney announced earlier this week that all Disney World visitors will be required to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld have urged patrons to wear face coverings when inside; The former has also required employees to resume COVID safety measures, including mask-wearing.
“The health and safety of our guests and team members is always our top priority,” Universal said in a statement to the Associated Press.