Six US states were hit by record spikes in new COVID-19 cases on Friday and Florida, an epicenter of the pandemic, saw infections rise sharply for the second consecutive day when Walt Disney Co. stuck to its plans to open its flagship theme park again in Orlando.
The surges in Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin set the pace to once again set a one-off record for new cases of coronavirus as Walt Disney World became the latest flashpoint in a national debate over access to public spaces.
Walt Disney Co. said that the Orlando theme parks would open on Saturday for a limited number of guests, requiring all visitors and staff to undergo temperature checks and wear face masks and cancel parades, fireworks and other crow races.
About 19,000 people, including some employees at the theme park, have signed a petition asking Disney to delay the reopening. The union representing 750 Walt Disney World artists has filed a complaint against the company claiming revenge against members over a union demand that they be tested for COVID-19.
A Disney spokeswoman said Disney World would open again without the artists after Actors Equity union representatives had not been available for further talks. Seven other unions reached a deal with Disney to return to work.
Other theme parks opened in Orlando in June, including Comcast Corps Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld Entertainment Inc’s SeaWorld.
Florida registered 11,433 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, the state health department says, just short of the state’s record high and more evidence that it was at the center of the American pandemic.
Florida does not reveal the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, but earlier this week, more than four dozen Florida hospitals reported that their intensive care units were full.
This month, Florida has repeatedly reported more new daily cases of coronavirus than any European country had at the height of its outbreaks. Its positive test rate, 19% earlier this week, is one of the highest in the country.
Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, annoyed some residents and medical experts by calling the nail a “blip.”
On Friday, DeSantis said the state would receive more than 17,000 vials of the US government’s antiviral drug reduction, adding: “It will hopefully help improve patient outcomes.”
Scott Burkee, a 43-year-old former Disney employee from Davenport, Florida, said DeSantis “has shown zero effort to control the spread, he only gets worried when Trump does. The virus is clearly out of control. “
Trump, a Republican, traveled to Florida on Friday for an incident on the U.S. military’s Southern Command and a fundraiser.
The president has sparred with state and local officials and teachers unions over the reopening of schools, and said on Friday that the Treasury would re-examine the tax-exempt status and funding of those who remain closed.
Trump previously promised to cut out federal funds for schools and deport foreign students who go to university in the United States unless their schools offer classes for people, even though most educational funds come from state and local coffers.
The United States has the world’s highest known number of both COVID-19 cases and deaths. The number of confirmed American infections is over 3 million, according to a Reuters contraction, claiming fears will be overwhelming.
More than 133,000 Americans have died, a toll that experts warn will likely increase along with the rise.
Overall, coronavirus cases are increasing in 44 US states, based on a Reuters analysis of cases over the past two weeks compared to the previous two weeks.