(Reuters) – Six US states suffered record spikes in new COVID-19 cases on Friday and Florida, an epicenter of the pandemic, saw infections spike sharply for the second consecutive day as the Walt Disney Co. he stuck to his plans to reopen his iconic theme park in Orlando.
FILE PHOTO: Crowds walk down Main Street to Cinderella Castle and Tomorrowland at Disney’s Magic Kingdom on the last day before closing in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in an aerial view of Orlando, Florida, United States. March 15, 2020. Photo taken on March 15, 2020. REUTERS / Gregg Newton
Sudden increases in Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Utah, and Wisconsin put the United States at a pace to once again set a one-day record for new coronavirus cases, as Walt Disney World became the latest critical point in a national debate on access to public spaces.
The Walt Disney Co. (DIS.N) said Orlando theme parks would open on Saturday to a limited number of guests, requiring all visitors and employees to submit to temperature controls and wear face masks and cancel parades, fireworks displays, and other giveaway events. .
The Disney medical director said this week he believed the comprehensive set of safeguards the company developed with health experts would allow visitors to visit the park safely.
Approximately 19,000 people, including some theme park workers, 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, alleging retaliation against the members for a union demand that they be tested for COVID-19.
A Disney spokeswoman said Disney World would reopen without the performers after Actors Equity union representatives had not been available for further talks. Seven other unions reached agreements with Disney to return to work.
Other theme parks opened in Orlando in June, including Comcast Corp’s Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld’s SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.
Florida recorded 11,433 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, the state health department said, just below the state record and more evidence that it was at the center of the American pandemic.
Florida does not disclose the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, but earlier this week more than four dozen Florida hospitals reported that their intensive care units were full.
This month, Florida has repeatedly reported newer daily cases of coronavirus than any European country had at the height of its outbreaks. Its positive test rate, at 19% earlier this week, is one of the highest in the country.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, angered some residents and medical experts by calling the spike a “failure.”
On Friday, DeSantis said the state would receive more than 17,000 vials of the antiviral drug remdesivir from the US government, adding: “That will be something that hopefully will help improve patient outcomes.”
Scott Burkee, a 43-year-old former Disney employee from Davenport, Florida, said DeSantis “has shown no effort to control the spread, only concerned when Trump does.” The virus is clearly out of control. ”
Trump, a Republican, traveled to Florida on Friday for an event at the U.S. Army’s Southern Command and to raise funds for the campaign.
The president confronted state and local officials and teacher unions about the reopening of schools, and said Friday that the Treasury Department would re-examine the tax-exempt status and funding of those who remain closed.
Trump previously promised to cut federal funds for schools and expel foreign students attending universities in the United States unless his schools offer in-person classes, although most education funds come from state and local chests.
The United States has the world’s largest known number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The number of confirmed infections in the US exceeds 3 million, according to a Reuters count, fueling fears that hospitals will be overwhelmed.
More than 133,000 Americans have died, a number that experts warn is likely to increase along with the increase in cases.
Overall, coronavirus cases are on the rise in 44 US states, according to a Reuters analysis of cases in the past two weeks compared to the previous two weeks.
Additional reports by Susan Heavey, Lisa Shumaker, Maria Caspani, Gabriella Borter, and Lisa Richwine; Written by Alistair Bell and Dan Whitcomb; Howard Goller and Daniel Wallis edition