Florida has reported the largest single-day increase of any state since the first coronavirus infections were confirmed in the US.
On Sunday, the state’s Department of Health and Statistics reported 15,299 daily new cases, far surpassing the state’s previous record of just under 12,000 cases recorded four days earlier.
Florida has so far reported a total of more than 269,000 confirmed cases.
If Florida were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for the most new confirmed infections in a single day behind the US, Brazil and India, according to an analysis by the Reuters news agency.
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The latest tally comes at the end of a grim, record-breaking week in Florida, with 514 fatalities. On Sunday, 45 more deaths were reported. At least 4,242 people have died in the state from the virus.
While increased testing has partially accounted for Florida’s increase in confirmed cases, the rate of those testing positive has also increased dramatically, according to the Associated Press news agency.
A month ago, fewer than five percent of tests came up positive on a daily average. Over the past week, the daily average exceeded 19 percent.
The US overall has also reported record-breaking daily numbers of new infections in recent days, confirming more than 60,000 on four of the last five days. To date, the country has reported at least 2.6 million cases and 134,000 deaths, the most of any country.
Protest over masks
Florida has been criticised for reopening large parts of its economy in May and June, despite warnings from health officials.
Experts are concerned that people in the state continue to gather in crowds. They also fear the possible fallout from the Republican National Convention’s nomination party for President Donald Trump, which is currently set to be held in Jacksonville in August.
On Saturday, the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom reopened at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Guests at the park said that people were wearing masks and social distancing, and videos showed near-empty parks. The SeaWorld and Orlando Studio attractions had had already reopened.
Moreover, many Americans still refuse to wear a mask, which health experts say helps to stop transmission of the virus.
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Seven months into the pandemic, President Donald Trump wore a mask for the first time in public when he visited a Washington, DC area military medical centre on Saturday.
Trump had previously refused to wear a mask in public or ask Americans to wear face coverings, saying it was a personal choice.
Anti-mask activists organised a protest on Saturday at a grilled cheese restaurant and bar in Windermere, Florida, which is in Orange County about 19 kilometres (12 miles) from Walt Disney World.
The restaurant, 33 & Melt, has become a focal point of tension after owner Carrie Hudson said she was not requiring customers to wear masks. County officials have mandated the use of masks in public since June 20.
During Saturday’s protest, no customers wore face coverings inside the restaurant. Agents from the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco arrived during the rally and served Hudson with a warning, according to a video.
Governor pushes school reopening
Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said that even with the rising coronavirus rates, he still wants schools to reopen as scheduled next month, saying children have not proven to be vectors for the disease in states and countries where campuses are open.
He said while each county will have to come up with procedures, depending on their local infection rate, not opening the schools would exacerbate the achievement gap between high and low-performing students.
“We know there are huge, huge costs for not providing the availability of in-person schooling,” he said. “The risk of corona, fortunately, for students is incredibly low.”