FLORIDA KEYS -- Monroe County officials are targeting Monday, June 1, to reopen the Florida Keys to visitors following the island chain’s closure to tourists March 22 to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.
Lodging is to be limited to 50 percent of standard occupancy during beginning stages of reopening.
The easing of visitor restrictions is to coincide with the planned June 1 suspension of checkpoints on two roads leading from the South Florida mainland to the Keys. Until June 1, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office is to continue to operate southbound traffic stops restricting road access to non-residents. The traffic stops are located at mile marker 112.5 on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway (U.S. 1), and on State Road 905, between Ocean Reef and the access point to U.S. 1 in Key Largo.
Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers cautioned that timing plans to reopen the Keys to visitors could be hampered if there are significant increases in coronavirus cases in the Keys or on the South Florida mainland.
New coronavirus infections in Monroe County have been greatly reduced, health officials said, and the infection rate in Miami-Dade and Broward has eased, enabling officials in those counties to begin reopening businesses and public facilities.
Carruthers said that Keys lodging and other tourism-related businesses are preparing for a “new normal” to host visitors.
New disinfecting and social distancing guidelines, as well as mandatory wearing of face coverings for both visitors and tourism industry staff members, are to be initiated with input from the Florida Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
In the case of larger resorts and tourism-related businesses, corporate offices likely will help to establish procedures.
Carruthers said the county plans to enforce the health guidelines.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has approved Monroe County's plans to permit resumed operation of licensed Florida Keys vacation rentals as per Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' Executive Order 20-123. Vacation rentals are to be able to accommodate visitors beginning June 1.
For information about coronavirus (COVID-19) and preventive techniques, visit these trusted resources:
Frequently Asked Questions for Florida Keys Travelers
What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?
In February, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease.
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. (source: CDC.gov)
Who is most affected by COVID-19?
The elderly (over age 65) and those with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease such as COPD, or obesity are at the greatest risk for serious effects from COVID-19.
How can I best protect myself and my family?
While there’s not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, the best prevention and treatments are methods that have been practiced for years when dealing with flu and respiratory illnesses. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.
Health officials remind people that preventive actions to help impede the spread of respiratory diseases include:
- avoid close contact with people who are sick
- stay home and avoid contact with persons in poor health
- avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then dispose of the tissue
- per CDC guidelines, cover the mouth and nose with a cloth face cover (NOT a facemask meant for a healthcare worker) whenever in public or around others
- wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing the nose, coughing or sneezing
- if soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol; always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
Should I wear a facemask?
A significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.
Therefore, the CDC recommends that individuals cover the mouth and nose with a cloth face cover whenever it’s necessary to go out in public. This is especially important in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) in areas of significant community-based transmission.
Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing, but is meant as a further protection. A cloth face cover should not be used on a child under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove it without assistance. Read more at CDC.gov
What preventive measures are being taken in the Florida Keys against COVID-19?
The health and safety of everyone in the Keys remains the top priority. Florida Keys county and municipal officials, along with the Keys medical community, continue to proactively deal with coronavirus.
There are confirmed cases of the virus in the Florida Keys, according to Florida Department of Health officials. To keep the public informed and aware of coronavirus impacts, the Florida Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard is updated daily. The resource includes Monroe County (Florida Keys) data.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office continues to operate southbound traffic stops restricting road access to non-residents through May 31. The traffic stops are located at mile marker 112.5 on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway (U.S. 1), and on State Road 905, between Ocean Reef and the access point to U.S. 1 in Key Largo, and are to operate 24 hours a day.
At both Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International Airport, all people arriving by commercial or general aviation aircraft who deplane are to be screened for COVID-19 through May 31.
Screenings are to continue for passengers traveling on nonstop flights from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Louisiana, designated COVID-19 hotspot states. 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.
I think I might have coronavirus. What should I do next?
If you believe you are having an emergency, please call 9-1-1. If not, contact your medical provider and follow directions given. An internet search will provide names, addresses and phone numbers for medical providers in your area.
Are events with large groups of people safe to attend?
The CDC offers guidance with regard to avoiding or limiting events, groups and gatherings.
It is also recommended that individuals avoid any contact with other individuals in, closed-in or poorly ventilated settings with little air circulation if he/she:
- is a contact to a known or suspected case of COVID-19
- is over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions
- is immune compromised
- is ill
- has been exposed to someone with a respiratory illness in the last 14 days
- has chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease
- has traveled internationally within the last 14 days, especially to destinations under a level 3 travel advisory
- has traveled to or from a geographic area with widespread community transmission of COVID-19
I have plans to come to the Florida Keys, but I understand the Keys remain closed to visitors through May 31. What can I do about refunds or rescheduling plans?
Contact your airline, hotel and other travel providers regarding trip changes and/or refunds. Travel resources should work out solutions regarding deposits and other payments.
What about traveling on cruise ships, ferries and their port calls in Key West?
U.S. ocean-going cruise lines have temporarily suspended cruise ship operations from U.S. embarkation ports.
The Key West Ferry Terminal and the Key West Express ferry is expected to resume operations in early June.
Are Florida Keys beaches, parks and attractions open to visitors?
Florida Keys lodging, attractions, beaches, parks, marinas, boat ramps and fishing piers remain temporarily closed to visitors through May 31.
Monroe County officials announced they are targeting Monday, June 1, to reopen the Florida Keys to visitors following the island chain’s closure to tourists March 22 to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.
Some facilities in the Keys have slowly reopened to residents for outdoor recreational purposes, provided social distancing guidelines are strictly observed.
What about restaurants, bars and nightclubs?
Based on an executive order issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, all bars and nightclubs throughout Florida, including the Keys, remain closed.
All restaurants and food establishments within the State of Florida, including the Florida Keys, may operate for the purpose of take-out or delivery. Per the Governor's executive order in effect May 18, 2020, restaurants in most areas of Florida, including the Florida Keys, are allowed to re-open, with full outdoor seating. Indoor seating is allowed at 50 percent of building capacity. Restaurants also are to implement proper protective and sanitary measures.
Are area state and national parks open?
Florida state parks are reopening for day use, with some exceptions. Visitors should expect limited capacities, hours and amenities during the initial reopening phases.
Ferry and seaplane service to Dry Tortugas National Park remains suspended. All islands in the Dry Tortugas National Park are closed until further notice. Marine waters and harbors remain open.
Where can I get reliable information from trusted resources?
The coronavirus situation is extremely fluid and has the potential to change rapidly, on a daily basis. Coronavirus information is abundant and can be found at these trusted resources including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Florida Department of Health and Monroe County Emergency Management.
Florida’s state health department established a dedicated COVID-19 hotline at 1-866-779-6121. The call center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.