, Fla. (AP) — According to federal health data released
reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19
, the state's highest one-day total since the pandemic
began, as theme park resorts began asking visitors to wear masks
indoors once again.
The state has emerged as the virus's new national epicenter, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all new cases in the United States
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
has opposed mandatory mask mandates
requirements, and has limited local officials' ability to impose COVID-19-related restrictions. DeSantis barred school
districts from requiring students
to wear masks when classes resume next month.
The latest figures were recorded on Friday and released on Saturday on the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
. They show how quickly the number of cases is increasing in the Sunshine State: only a day earlier, Florida reported 17,093 new daily cases. The previous peak in Florida was 19,334 cases reported on Jan. 7, before the availability of vaccinations
The Florida Hospital
Association reported Friday that COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state are approaching last year's peak, and one of the state's largest health care
systems, AdventHealth's Central Florida Division, announced this week that it would no longer perform non-emergency surgeries to free up resources for COVID-19 patients.
On Saturday, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld became the latest Florida theme park resorts to ask visitors to wear masks indoors, with Universal also ordering its employees to wear face coverings to protect against COVID-19, which has been on the rise across the state.
On Saturday, all employees at Universal's Florida park were required to wear masks while indoors as the company resumed social distancing
. The home
of Harry Potter and Despicable Me rides also asked visitors to follow federal and local health guidelines by voluntarily wearing face coverings indoors.
Universal said in a statement
, "The health and safety of our guests and team members is always our top priority."
According to health officials, coronavirus
cases in Florida have increased by 50% in the last week, with COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state approaching last year's peak.
On Saturday, SeaWorld announced on its website that visitors should follow recently updated federal recommendations and wear face coverings while inside.
The policy change at the theme park resorts this week came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors.
On Friday, Walt Disney World
began requiring employees and guests over the age of two to wear masks, but the Walt Disney Company also announced that all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the United States who work
on site will be required to be fully vaccinated.
Employees who have not yet been vaccinated will have 60 days to do so, and those who are still working from home will be required to show proof of vaccination before returning. Disney said it was discussing vaccine requirements with the union, and added that all new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated before starting work at the company.