Florida reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, the state's highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the last week, Florida saw a 50% increase weekly in new cases, as the state reported 110,477 cases from July 23 to July 29, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health.

Florida also reported 409 deaths this week, which brings the state's total to more than 39,000 since the pandemic began in March 2020. The peak for deaths in the state happened in mid-August 2020 when 1,266 people died over the span of seven days.

The state has become a new epicenter for the virus, as CDC data shows that new case numbers in Florida make up nearly a fifth of all new cases in the U.S. as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.

The Governor Is Resisting Mask Mandates

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has opposed making masks mandatory across the state in addition to vaccine requirements. DeSantis, along with the state legislature, has limited the ability of local officials to enforce restrictions that public health officials say would help stop the spread of COVID-19.

On Friday, DeSantis signed an executive order barring school districts from forcing students to wear a mask or face covering when they return to schools later this month.

Under the new order, parents will be able to choose whether their children will wear masks inside the classroom — despite the newly released guidance from the CDC that recommends everyone inside K-12 schools to wear a mask or face covering.

The State's Big Theme Parks Are Bringing Masks Back

Theme parks across Florida are also taking new measures to protect park visitors and staff.

SeaWorld and Universal Orlando Resort have updated their masks requirements asking visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to begin wearing masks indoors and practice social distancing if possible.

"We encourage all guests – regardless of vaccination status – to wear face coverings while indoors," according to Universal Orlando Resort's updated safety guidelines.

SeaWorld posted on its website that it was recommending that visitors follow the recently updated recommendations given by CDC to wear face coverings while indoors. Disney World in Orlando this past week also brought back an indoor mask mandate.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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