The state of Florida on Friday recorded its highest ever single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 21,683 new infections, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Friday’s infection surge comes as the Sunshine State is emerging as the new epicenter for the virus. The new tally outpaces the state’s previous peak measured in early January, when daily new cases reached a total of 19,334.
Florida on Thursday recorded 17,093 new cases, according to the CDC, even as the state’s vaccination rate has recently increased.
On Friday, the Florida Department of Health said there had been a 50 percent jump in new coronavirus cases in the previous week, with more than 110,000 new infections recorded.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has resisted imposing mandatory mask mandates despite the CDC’s updated guidance announced this week that vaccinated individuals should mask up indoors in areas with high positivity rates.
DeSantis, a frequent critic of coronavirus mitigation measures has also prohibited businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination.
DeSantis on Friday went a step further and signed an executive order allowing parents to choose whether their children will wear masks in school, regardless of whether the local school district has implemented a mandatory mask mandate.
As of Saturday, about 58 percent of Florida’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 49 percent fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s vaccine tracker map.
The surge in cases has taken a toll on hospitals in the state, with Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew saying Thursday that coronavirus hospitalizations statewide are approaching last year’s peak levels.
Despite DeSantis’ pushback to mask mandates, several businesses throughout the state, including Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld, have reimposed indoor mask mandates for guests to fall in line with the updated guidance.
The Florida-based supermarket chain Publix also said Friday that it would be requiring all employees, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks at work.
The updated CDC guidance was based on research suggesting that vaccinated individuals may be able to spread the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19 just as easily as unvaccinated groups.
The pace of vaccinations across the country has picked up over the past week as federal officials ramp up their warnings on the danger of the delta variant, with Florida measuring a 15 percent increase in shots administered, according to the state’s health department.