▶ Watch Video: Florida hospital sees most COVID-19 patients since start of pandemic, with over 90% unvaccinated

Florida on Friday reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19 — the most infections in a single day since the start of the pandemic, according to data released Saturday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Over the last seven days, Florida saw a 50% weekly increase in new cases, reporting 110,477 cases from July 23 to July 29, according to the Florida Department of Health. In July, Florida was one of four states that accounted for 40% of the country’s total infections, according to White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients. During that time, the Sunshine State recorded one out of every five of the nation’s new cases, he said.

“There is no higher risk area in the United States than we’re seeing here,” Florida International University infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty told CBS Miami. “The numbers that we’re seeing are unbelievable, just unbelievably frightening.”

On Wednesday, 8,816  Florida residents were hospitalized from COVID-19 complications, and more than 95% of those were not fully vaccinated, according to the Florida Hospital Association (FHA). Those patients, on average, also tended to be younger than those seen in previous peaks during the pandemic.

“What you heard last year and last spring about this virus mostly targeting seniors and those with preexisting conditions is not true today,” FHA president and CEO Mary C. Mayhew said in a statement. 

The record-breaking number of cases comes a day after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order barring school districts from forcing students to wear face masks when they return to class. Under the order, parents will be able to choose whether or not their children wear masks in schools, despite updated guidance this week from the CDC that recommended requiring everyone inside K-12 schools to wear a mask.

“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” DeSantis said in a statement. 

The governor this week called on eligible residents in the state to get vaccinated. Approximately 61% of the population in Florida is fully vaccinated, according to the Florida Department of Health.

“These vaccines are saving lives,” he said at a press conference Wednesday. “They are reducing mortality.”