If you’re traveling to the Keys, there are precautions to take for visitors arriving in the Keys as well as residents of the island chain. Plan ahead and come prepared.
Pack Facial Coverings and Other Essentials Before Traveling
Bring facial coverings, hand sanitizer and personal essential medicines. If you’re feeling unwell, please stay home, call your physician and get advice. You have the personal responsibility to protect yourself and others in terms of public health.
Throughout the Florida Keys, officials are requiring facial coverings to be worn in business establishments and other public settings, including an outdoor tiki restaurant/bar. They are also required to be worn outdoors in the Florida Keys when social distancing of six feet or more is not possible. In Key West, masks are required everywhere outside a residence, regardless of whether social distancing is maintained.
Personal Protective Actions While on Vacation
Throughout the Florida Keys, officials are requiring facial coverings to be worn by everyone in business establishments — a lodging facility, restaurant, grocery store, pharmacy, indoor attraction, museum, retail or clothing shop, beauty salon, health spa, etc. — and other public settings.
Facial coverings are also required to be worn outdoors in the Florida Keys when social distancing of six feet or more is not possible. In Key West, masks are required everywhere outside a residence, regardless of whether social distancing is maintained.
Coverings over the nose and mouth may include a face mask, homemade or purchased from a drug store, or a cloth scarf, bandana, handkerchief, gaiter or buff. Dr. Mark Whiteside, medical director of the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County, advised wearing a simple surgical-type mask or facial covering can be effective especially when done in conjunction with social distancing.
- Wearing a face covering does not eliminate the need for social distancing and proper hand hygiene.
- Frequently wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Carry and use hand sanitizer with at least a 60 percent alcohol base if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or a tissue and properly dispose of the tissue as well as face mask, gloves and other protective apparel.
- Stay hydrated and well-rested, especially during warm summer months in the Florida Keys.
Social Gatherings and Distancing
Avoid socializing in large groups. Maximize physical distance from others, particularly in closed environments, maintaining at least 6 feet between people. COVID-19 is most transmissible indoors under close, sustained contact.
In its public health advisory, the Florida Department of Health reminds Floridians and visitors to wear face coverings in any setting where social distancing is not possible and refrain from participating in gatherings of more than 10 people.
An advantage of the Florida Keys is that the 125-mile-long island chain has many wide-open spaces. The Keys offer a great opportunity to take advantage of outdoor activities and the natural beauty of sea and sky.
At both Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International Airport, health screenings remain in place for passengers traveling on nonstop flights from designated COVID-19 hotspot states, per the Florida governor's executive order. Each person screened is required to isolate or quarantine for a period of 14 days or the duration of that person’s stay in the county, whichever is shorter.
Accommodations and Vacation Rentals
Florida Keys hotels, resorts and other lodging establishments are implementing American Hotel & Lodging Association COVID-19 guidelines for enhanced, best-practice health, cleanliness and safety. Check websites of your hotels and other lodging facilities to learn what safety measures are in effect, and what amenities are open and available, such as hotel pools. Guests can expect other protocols such as contactless check-in and check-out procedures.
Licensed vacation rental properties are also to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between rentals, in accordance with these standards. Contactless check-in and payment processes are being emphasized. Vacationers are encouraged to confirm with their property's management what household supplies such as linens, towels, pillows and beach towels are to be available based on the vacation home's occupancy limits**. Extras of these items may not be provided.
**Effective July 27, 2020, countywide, capacity for vacation rental property is to be limited to two people per bedroom plus two. For example, a two-bedroom vacation rental can have a maximum occupancy of six people, etc. Additionally, the name and telephone number of the vacation rental manager, who MUST be locally-located, is to be posted on a sign that can be easily read from the street.
Hotel staff and guests are required to wear a mask or cloth face covering that covers the nose and mouth in public areas such as lobbies and indoor common areas. Facial coverings are also required to be worn outdoors when social distancing of six feet or more is not possible. In Key West, masks are required everywhere outside a residence, regardless of whether social distancing is maintained.
Self-parking at hotels is encouraged. If valet service is provided, disinfecting of any contact points within the vehicle will be required. Van and shuttle services may be limited or not offered. Many lodging facilities are suspending daily housekeeping services.
Dining and Bars
Restaurants and food establishments are currently operating at 50 percent indoor capacity, with appropriate social distancing and a minimum of 6 feet separating parties. Masks/facial coverings are required to be worn entering and exiting an indoor establishment. Restaurant patrons can remove their masks only while seated and eating or drinking.
Outdoor dining areas should be prioritized and requested. Waiting areas may be limited to manage spacing, depending upon the eatery’s size, so waiting outdoors is preferable when possible. Inquire whether restaurant menus are online or viewable on a personal device, or are single use and disposable versus laminated, reusable menus.
Florida bars and pubs that derive more than 50 percent of revenues from sales of alcoholic beverages suspended the sales of alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises until further notice, per the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's emergency order 2020-09. These establishments may sell alcoholic beverages in sealed containers for consumption off premises.
Bar seating in restaurants is allowed, limited to 50 percent capacity with social distance of six feet, with the exception of the City of Key West, where as of July 10, 2020, bar seating and service is closed to customers.
Monroe County is to require countywide bars and restaurants to close from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly starting Friday, July 24, through Wednesday, Aug. 19. Alcohol sales at package and grocery stores also are to be prohibited between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. during the same timeframe. Municipalities in the Keys may enact their own directives.
Food establishments including mobile vendors (food trucks) are to be closed between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., through Aug. 19.
Recreation: Parks, Attractions, Museums, Watersports and Beaches
Community parks and other outdoor recreational facilities are open in the Florida Keys **. Check with the tourism facility or charter operator in advance to learn if all areas or services are open, such as bathrooms and concessions. Capacity limits are to be in place, as are contactless protocols such as electronic safety waivers for watersports, diving, snorkeling, fishing charters and boat tours. Inside museums, attractions and visitor centers visitor centers and public gardens, refrain from using touchscreens or interactive exhibits.
State parks are open for daytime use, and some limited camping. Park visitors may not have access to certain amenities, such as restroom facilities, pavilions, picnic areas and campsites, due to area closures or staff and visitor safety considerations.
Dry Tortugas National Park is open, and seaplane and ferry service have resumed. Camping, restrooms and recreational boating are also permitted. Entrance fees do apply. At Everglades National Park, visitor centers remain closed, although camping is reopening.
Public beaches in the Florida Keys are open from dawn to dusk with limited amenities. Pavilions, barbecues and playgrounds may be inaccessible. It is suggested that small groups of people maintain a 6-foot distance between groups during beach access, for the comfort of all beach goers.
** PLEASE NOTE: Public parks, public beaches and public boat ramps in Islamorada are to be closed Friday, July 24, through Wednesday, Aug. 19. The closures include Founders Park, Anne's Beach, Library Beach Park, and the area known as the Fills (between mile marker 77.5 and 79.8). Closures do not affect private marinas or private boat ramps. The boat ramp in Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina in Founders Park is to be open to residents, homeowners and lodging guests, with identification proof.
In Key Largo, Rowell’s Park and Bay Drive will be closed to the public, and Sunset Point and Harry Harris Park will only be accessible by residents from Friday, July 24 to Sunday, Aug. 9. During this time, nonresidents will need to seek a private boat ramp or seek a public ramp elsewhere in the Keys.
Gyms, Fitness Centers, Retail Shops and Other Keys Businesses
Most gyms, yoga and dance studios and fitness centers are open and operating at full capacity. Actively practice social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing.
In Key West, masks are required to be worn everywhere outside a residence, regardless of whether social distancing is maintained. This includes gyms and fitness centers and while patrons are actively working out.
Individuals in other areas of the Keys can remove their face coverings while actively exercising. Facial coverings are required to be worn, however, while entering, checking in, checking out and exiting.
Retail customers should not handle or try on merchandise, particularly clothing. Return items to store staff for proper replacement on shelves. Heed markings and signage that an establishment such as a retail store, grocery store or pharmacy displays for customers within the premises to help with social distancing.
Different Regions of the Keys, Different Guidelines
In Monroe County, wearing facial coverings inside a business is a required local government directive. Some municipalities in the Keys are taking additional precautions. Businesses in Key West, for example, may take no-touch temperatures when individuals enter.
What if I Feel Ill While Traveling in the Keys
If you believe you have any symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical counsel immediately. Google “Florida Keys doctors” on your smartphone, call the front desk of your lodging property or contact a hospital emergency room at Mariners Hospital in the Upper Keys (305-434-3600), Fisherman’s Hospital in the Middle Keys (305-743-5533) or Lower Keys Medical Center (305-294-5531). Remain quarantined in your hotel room until you receive medical advice, and notify the front desk of your situation. For even more serious medical emergencies, dial 9-1-1.
Proper Disposal of Protective Items
Used masks, gloves and other personal items should be properly discarded in waste containers. Do not discard them on tables, on the floor or ground, or along a roadway.
Respect Others and Have a Great Time
Visitors to the Florida Keys are strongly encouraged to be mindful of personal space, respect local regulations and practices, wear face coverings in public and continue to take other measures to protect their health and that of their traveling companions.
The Florida Keys tourism industry wants you to remain happy and healthy throughout your stay, and go back home as healthy or healthier, and hopefully even happier, than when you arrived.
More than 100 banners are being installed along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway and in the city of Key West to communicate COVID-19 protective measures, including the mandatory wearing of masks, that are in place throughout the island chain.