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Florida has more new Covid cases than ever before

The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S.

ORLANDO, 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.

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. DeSantis on Friday barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month.

The latest numbers were recorded Friday and released 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 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.

Health officials on Friday announced that coronavirus cases in Florida had jumped 50 percent over the past week with COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state nearing last year’s peak.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 615,000 Americans, according to a rolling NBC News tally. At least 38,000 of those fatalities have been in Florida, in a per capita rate that puts the state squarely in the middle of the pack.

About 48.7 percent of Florida's population has been fully vaccinated, according to NBC's vaccination tracker. That puts Florida slightly behind other large states like California (52.6), New York (56.9) and Pennsylvania (52.2) but ahead of Illinois (48.3) and Texas (43.7).