Federal health officials say Florida has reported more than 21,600 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemicBy MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated PressJuly 31, 2021, 9:31 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleORLANDO, Fla. — Florida reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic, according to federal health data released Saturday, as its theme park resorts again started asking visitors to wear masks indoors.The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S.Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted mandatory mask mandates and vaccine requirements, and along with the state Legislature, has limited local officials’ ability to impose restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19. DeSantis on Friday barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month.The latest numbers were recorded on Friday and released on Saturday on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. The figures show how quickly the number of cases is rising in the Sunshine State: only a day earlier, Florida reported 17,093 new daily cases. The previous peak in Florida had been 19,334 cases reported on Jan. 7, before the availability of vaccinations became widespread.The Florida Hospital Association said Friday that statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations are nearing last year’s peak, and one of the state’s largest health care systems, AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division, this week advised it would no longer be conducting nonemergency surgeries in order to free up resources for COVID-19 patients.Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld on Saturday became the latest theme park resorts in Florida to again ask visitors to wear masks indoors, with Universal also ordering its employees to wear face coverings to protect against COVID-19, which has been surging across the state.All workers at Universal’s Florida park on Saturday started being required to wear masks while indoors as the employees returned to practicing social distancing. The home to Harry Potter and Despicable Me rides also asked visitors to follow federal and local health guidelines by voluntarily wearing face coverings indoors.“The health and safety of our guests and team members is always our top priority,” Universal said in a statement.Health officials on Friday announced that coronavirus cases in Florida had jumped 50% over the past week with COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state nearing last year’s peak.SeaWorld on Saturday posted on its website that it was recommending that visitors follow recently updated federal recommendations and wear face coverings while indoors.The change in policy this week at the theme park resorts came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that everyone wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.Crosstown rival Walt Disney World started requiring employees and guests older than 2 to wear masks on Friday, but it also went a step further. The Walt Disney Company said in a statement that it will be requiring all salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. who work on site to be fully vaccinated.Disney employees who aren’t already vaccinated will have 60 days to do so and those still working from home will need to show proof of vaccination before returning. Disney said it was discussing the vaccine requirements with the union, and added that all new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated before starting work at the company.
Forget an inauguration ceremonyBy MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated PressJuly 20, 2021, 3:26 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleORLANDO, Fla. — Forget an inauguration ceremony. The true indicator of having made it as president is being added to the Hall of Presidents at Walt Disney World in Florida, an honor President Joe Biden will soon receive.Disney World officials said Monday that they were putting the finishing touches on the animatronic Biden replica ahead of its debut next month at the Magic Kingdom attraction that features a tableau of the nation’s presidents.The attraction had been closed for several months to add Biden, who took office earlier this year as the nation’s 46th president.The animatronic Biden will stand forefront in the presidential tableau. Next to him, a table will hold peach blossoms to represent his home state of Delaware and a pair of aviator sunglasses in a nod to his favorite eyewear. During the show, the real Biden will recite the presidential oath of office in a recording that was taken at the White House, according to a Disney blog post.Former President Donald Trump will relocate to another spot in the tableau now that his term is over, the blog post said.After Trump took office in 2017, an online petition was launched to push Disney to keep its animatronic Trump silent, but the effort failed.The Hall of Presidents has been at the Magic Kingdom since opening day in 1971.“Almost 50 years later, the story of liberty’s leaders continues to be told and retold to new generations as Walt Disney originally envisioned,” the blog post said.———Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP
The Walt Disney Co. says it plans to build a new regional campus in central Florida to house at least 2,000 professional employees who will be relocating from Southern California to work in digital technology, finance and product developmentBy MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated PressJuly 15, 2021, 8:28 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleORLANDO, Fla. — The Walt Disney Co. said Thursday it planned to build a new regional campus in central Florida to house at least 2,000 professional employees who will be relocating from Southern California to work in digital technology, finance and product development.In a letter to employees, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said the move would allow creative and business teams to be better integrated. The company already has a theme park resort, Walt Disney World, that is the size of the city of San Francisco, located outside Orlando, Florida.The new Disney campus will be located about 20 miles (32 kilometers) to the east of Disney World, in a neighborhood by Orlando International Airport.“Florida is known for its rich culture of hospitality and active lifestyle as well as a lower cost of living with no state income tax,” D’Amaro said in the employee letter.While the California-based company is still figuring out which employees will be asked to relocate, they likely will be those in the parks division who aren’t working full-time at Disneyland in California or in the international parks business. Workers asked to relocate will have 18 months to make the move, D’Amaro said.“As someone who has moved with my family from California to Florida and back again, I understand that relocation is a big change, not only for the employee, but also for their families,” D’Amaro said.———Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP