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Guests wear masks as required to attend the official reopening day of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Image via AP.

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As Walt Disney World reopens, Orange, Osceola counties see new peaks of virus infections

Due to record numbers of new test results returned.

With Walt Disney World reopening, the counties providing the most homes to employees of the world’s largest tourist attraction saw dramatically new highs in single-day increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Sunday’s latest report from the Florida Department of Health showed 1,371 new confirmed cases in Orange County in the previous 24 hours, with another 306 new cases in Osceola. It’s the first time Orange County had seen more than 1,200 new cases logged in a day, and the first time Osceola saw more than 250.

Both cases, the totals grew by dramatically increased numbers of new test results that came on Saturday, the most ever for either county. The same was seen across the six-county greater Orlando region.

The same also was seen statewide, as Florida health officials reported 15,300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday morning, overwhelming the previous daily record by nearly 4,000. The state counted 142,981 new samples Saturday, 50% higher than the 95,335 individuals tallied Thursday, the previous testing record. Among those people who were prospective new positive cases, 11.3% returned positive.

Combined with what has been seen lately in Polk County, the third county that is home to large numbers of Walt Disney World’s tens of thousands of employees, the Central Florida numbers indicate that the coronavirus infections now are widely found throughout the nation’s most significant tourism destination, with Disney World’s reopening starting Saturday. Polk County saw an all-time high of 405 positive cases reported on Friday.

Still, only two new deaths were reported Sunday in Central Florida, a significant improvement from the double-digit death tolls seen the previous three days in the six-county region. There also were only 15 new hospitalizations reported across Central Florida on Sunday, down from a high of 63 reported Saturday, and more than 30 recorded each of the previous four days.

The testing confirmed a record 2,249 new cases across Central Florida: 1,371 in Orange, 306 in Seminole, 171 in Volusia County, 146 in Seminole County, 132 in Brevard County, and 123 in Lake County. Another 263 confirmed cases were logged Sunday in Polk — generally not included as a Central Florida county, but is, because of its relatively affordable housing, home to thousands of Central Florida tourism workers.

Those unusually high new case numbers were almost all spurred by record numbers of test results coming in on Saturday. The 21,237 new test results returned Saturday throughout Central Florida amounted to nearly 9,000 more than the previous post, which was returned on June 27.

With such a larger cohort, positive test rates fell in most counties. In Orange, 10% of 12,168 tests came back positive, the lowest rate the county has seen in more than two weeks. In Osceola, 11.4% of 2,389 tests were positive, again the lowest rate in two weeks. In Seminole, 10.3% of 1,319 tests came back positive, a slight rise in the positive rate from the day before.

In Volusia, 8.6% of 1,818 tests came back positive, neither a recent low nor high. Brevard’s 6.7% positive test rate for 1,842 results returned was the lowest seen in weeks. In Lake, 6.6% of 1,701 tests were positive, slightly higher than what Lake officials saw in results received the day before.

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Editor’s note on methodology: The Florida Department of Health releases new data every morning around 10:45 a.m. The total number reported in those daily reports include the previous day’s totals as well as the most up to date data as of about 9:30 a.m.

Florida Politics uses the report-over-report increase to document the number of new cases each day because it represents the most up-to-date data available. Some of the more specific data, including positivity rates and demographics, consider a different data set that includes only cases reported the previous day.

This is important to note because the DOH report lists different daily totals than our methodology to show day-over-day trends. Their numbers do not include nonresidents who tested positive in the state, and they only include single-day data; therefore, some data in the DOH report may appear lower than what we report.

Our methodology was established based on careful consideration among our editorial staff to capture both the most recent and accurate trends.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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