Florida Keys Overseas Highway
  • Visitors can travel the legendary Florida Keys Overseas Highway and return to the island chain starting June 1. That's the date the Keys officially reopen after being closed to nonresidents since March 22 because of the global COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Rob O'Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

     

  • By: Carol Shaughnessy
  • May 27, 2020

Throughout the 125-mile Florida Keys island chain, businesses ranging from resorts and restaurants to attractions and watersports charters are making final preparations to welcome visitors back beginning Monday, June 1.

Florida Keys sunset kayak

The tranquil waters surrounding the Keys provide a relaxing and renewing experience for visitors, while the uncrowded natural setting supports social distancing.

The Keys have been closed to nonresidents since March 22 to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 during the global outbreak.

In mid-May, since there was a consistently low incidence of cases in the Keys, local officials announced the planned reopening date — good news for those who need a break to renew and restore their spirits after the intense stress of the past few months.

On June 1, checkpoints on two roads leading from mainland South Florida to the Keys are being discontinued. In addition, health screenings will be discontinued for most arriving passengers at Key West International and Florida Keys Marathon International airports — except for passengers on nonstop flights from designated COVID-19 hotspot states.

Meanwhile, Keys hospitality and tourism-related businesses are making changes designed to safeguard the health and safety of their guests and customers.

Resorts and other lodging establishments are encouraged to limit occupancy to 50 percent capacity through June 15.

If you’re traveling to the Keys, you can rest assured that hotels, resorts, inns and other properties are embracing enhanced hygiene and sanitizing practices in guestrooms and public areas.

In addition, interactions between guests and staff are being streamlined to involve less direct contact. Social distancing will be required, and the wearing of masks or face coverings will be strongly encouraged (or mandated in some areas) for both staff members and guests.

Smathers Beach Key West

Keys visitors can reconnect with friends and family on a sunny beach beside the Atlantic Ocean — and savor the relaxation that comes from listening to gently lapping waves. (Photo by Rob O’Neal, Florida Keys News Bureau)

“Social distancing is absolutely the antithesis of hospitality, so we’re going to have to adapt in so many different ways,” said Diane Schmidt, general manager of the Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina. “But the priority will always be safety first, hospitality second.”

Restaurants, parks, beaches, attractions and other tourism-related businesses are being prepared for a “new normal” that’s designed to safeguard visitors. You can expect reduced occupancy limits, requested social distancing,  protocols for the use of masks, easily available hand sanitizer — and barriers or increased space between seating areas, restaurant tables and beachfront lounge chairs.

How can you help reinforce those efforts? On vacation as at home, be mindful of personal space. Respect the new regulations and practices, follow guidance on face coverings, and continue take whatever measures you can to protect your health and that of your fellow travelers.

According to Jodi Weinhofer, president of the Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West, a good number of properties have spent the recent weeks refreshing and improving their offerings.

“We may be living in a ‘new normal’ following the global coronavirus pandemic, but so many elements that draw people to the Florida Keys remain unchanged,” she said. “When we reopen, visitors will still find a wide range of welcoming lodging options, endless blue water for diving and fishing, eco-tourism activities, unique attractions and a laid-back atmosphere where they can relax and recharge.”

Want more information about the Florida Keys’ reopening and enhanced visitor safety guidelines? Just click here.

 

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