ORLANDO, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health announced new positive coronavirus cases across the state, as Central Florida theme parks and attractions begin to welcome guests back during the holiday weekend.
The Florida Department of Health reported 676 new people have tested positive for the respiratory illness.
As of Saturday, 50,127 people have tested positive for the virus since March 1, of those 9,310 have required hospitalizations. 193 more than what was reported Friday. The state does not report recovery numbers or the current number of hospitalized coronavirus patients, only the overall total.
The FDOH also reports 259 additional deaths bringing the total number of deaths in Florida to 2,232.
Death data is delayed, according to the DOH dashboard, and could take up to two weeks to report.
Below is a breakdown of coronavirus cases in Central Florida by county:
Universal Orlando got the go-ahead Friday to open all three of its Central Florida parks starting June 5.
John Sprouls, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Universal Parks & Resorts, presented Universal’s reopening plan to Orange County’s economic recovery task force Thursday.
It includes requiring all guests to wear masks, have their temperature checked and practice social distancing.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings approved the plan after the presentation and sent it to the state for the final word.
Florida Department of Health in Orange County director Dr. Raul Pino said it’s possible that as restrictions are loosened and guests start visiting theme parks once again, the area could see an increase in COVID-19 patients.
Pino said right now, the county is seeing about 20 to 30 cases a day. To prevent that number from swelling, his team plans to do what he called “secret shopping” at the attractions once they open to see how well guests are abiding by social distancing rules and other guidelines.
“What is critically important as we increase economic activity is to have those measures in place to protect employees and protect consumers that are going to use the parks and all the attractions, not just the parks,” Pino said.
After Universal’s announcement, more Central Florida theme parks and attractions followed suit, announcing their respective reopening dates.
Legoland Florida Resort announced that it will officially reopen to guests on June 1.
Fun Spot, after gaining approval from the state, opened ahead of all other attractions and began park operations at 2 p.m. Friday.
Gatorland Orlando, along with Fun Spot America and Icon Park had previously submitted letters to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings asking to be included in phase two of the governor’s reopening plan.
Staggering new numbers show the impact of coronavirus across Central Florida as every local county experienced an unemployment rate in the double digits during the month of April.
Businesses across the state had been closed since mid-March to stop the spread of COVID-19. Now, two months later, shops and restaurants are beginning to open their doors and even the major theme parks have target dates in mind for when they can begin operating once again.
Across the state, the April unemployment rate sat at 12.9%, which is up 8.5 percentage points from March, when the pandemic first began affecting the Sunshine State’s economy, and up 9.6 percentage points from April 2019, according to the DEO.
For some Central Florida counties, that April unemployment number was even higher. For more information and to see a breakdown from Central Florida counties click below.
The First Academy in Orlando said that it found a creative way to honor their graduating class, which included walking across an actual stage.
The school said the entire ceremony took 13 hours to complete.
Brooks DenBeste, 18, said that his entire academic career has been at The First Academy and was worried about not having a graduation ceremony.
“I always was looking forward to the graduation experience. It was something I always was really excited about. Not being sure if I was going to have it, was sort of one of those things I was sad about," said DenBesten.
Head of School, Steve Whitaker said it was important to set up an actual stage and let the students hear their name read aloud.
To see how the school pulled off a graduation ceremony during a pandemic, click below.