((BBC) – Walt Disney World Resort has begun to reopen in Florida despite a coronavirus surge across the US state.
The site’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opened on Saturday. Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are expected to follow from 15 July.
Visitors will be required to wear masks and adhere to other safety measures across the complex in Orlando.
Over a quarter of a million cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Florida, along with 4,197 deaths.
Disney first closed the resort in March during the early months of America’s outbreak. While infections were largely concentrated in New York and California at first, Florida is among several states recording a rise in cases in recent weeks.
In Orange County, where the resort is based, authorities have reported 16,630 cases – some of the highest numbers in Florida.
As a result, many cities and counties across Florida have reinstated restrictions that were lifted in May when infections began to drop.
Despite the outbreak, hundreds of people made their way to the Disney flagship resort on Saturday.
Some of its competitors, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, reopened to visitors several weeks ago.
Disney has also resumed limited operations at its four parks in Asia, and at Disney Springs – an outdoor shopping mall in Orlando. Disney reported a $1.4bn (£1.1bn) hit to profits in the first three months of the year.
“The world is changing around us, but we strongly believe that we can open safely and responsibly,” said Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park chairman, in an interview with the New York Times.
“Covid is here, and we have a responsibility to figure out the best approach to safely operate in this new normal.”
What else is happening in the US?
The US has seen another 66,600 infections in the past 24 hours and a total of almost 135,000 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Louisiana’s Democratic governor has announced a requirement that most people wear a mask in public, but state Republican lawmakers are expected to oppose the move.
“If you don’t like the mask mandate, then don’t like it while you wear your mask,” Governor John Bel Edwards said. “If you want to be mad at me about it, then be mad at me about it.”
The governor of South Carolina has issued an order banning sales of alcohol after 23:00 in bars and restaurants to try to stop the spread of the virus.
A court in Indiana has halted the execution of a convicted killer as the victim’s relatives said they were worried about travelling during the pandemic to watch him die. Daniel Lee was set to be executed on Monday in what would have been the first federal execution in 17 years.