Even the self-described “most magical place on Earth” can’t quite escape coronavirus concerns: Walt Disney World Resort in Florida announced it is now requiring all guests to wear face masks indoors, reversing a June decision not to mandate them for those vaccinated.
“As we have done since reopening, we’ve been very intentional and gradual in our approach to our COVID-19 health and safety protocols,” Disney said in a statement, adding, “We encourage people to get vaccinated.”
Yet Florida — a current hot spot for rising covid cases, accounting for about 1 in 5 new national cases — has become a political battleground over coronavirus restrictions.
In the latest front, the mayor of Orange County, where the Disney World Resort is located, issued an executive order on Wednesday declaring a “state of local emergency” in response to rising covid cases — while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) maintains his opposition to wider pandemic restrictions.
“I urge residents and visitors — vaccinated and unvaccinated — to wear a mask while indoors and to follow updated CDC guidelines,” Mayor Jerry L. Demings (D) said.
Today, July 28, 2021, I signed Executive Order 2021-24, declaring a State of Local Emergency for @OrangeCoFL. I urge residents and visitors — vaccinated and unvaccinated — to wear a mask while indoors and to follow updated CDC guidelines.— Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings (@OCFLMayor) July 28, 2021
Executive Order: https://t.co/NwUe1wNzH9 pic.twitter.com/XXz4vLmvTB
Elsewhere in the state, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava (D), also said that in response to an “alarming rise” in local cases “effective immediately, masks will be required again at all indoor Miami-Dade County facilities for employees & for visitors.”
“We have come too far and sacrificed too much to turn back now,” she tweeted.
The decisions from mayors seemingly place them in conflict with DeSantis, who has staunchly opposed stricter pandemic restrictions, particularly mask-wearing in public schools.
A state law signed in May gives DeSantis the power to invalidate local emergency measures in place during the pandemic, including mask mandates and limitations on business operations.
DeSantis was defiant Wednesday as he criticized the new CDC guidance at a Salt Lake City gathering of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that pushes conservative policies in Republican-controlled state legislatures.
“I think it’s very important we say, unequivocally, ‘No to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions, no to mandates,’” he said, per the Associated Press.
Earlier this month, DeSantis’s campaign team for the 2022 gubernatorial race began selling merchandise mocking Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious-disease expert, with the tagline: “Keep Florida Free.”
In the past week in Florida, new daily reported cases rose 67 percent, while daily reported deaths climbed 82 percent, according to Washington Post tracking. Just over 48 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Director of the CDC Rochelle Walensky acknowledged on Tuesday that the change in guidance on indoor masks was “not a welcome piece of news” but said the summer surge in cases driven by the delta variant’s startling transmissibility and low vaccination rates in many areas had forced the agency’s hand.
However, Walensky emphasized the measures would apply to people living and working in counties reporting “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus, which includes states like Florida.