COVID-19 Guidelines for Florida Keys Feature Mandatory Facial Coverings

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COVID-19 Guidelines for Florida Keys Feature Mandatory Facial Coverings

For visitors to the Keys, there continue to be precautions to take for visitors as well as residents of the island chain. Plan ahead and come prepared. Travel responsibly. You have the personal responsibility to protect yourself and others in terms of public health. Bring facial coverings, hand sanitizer and personal essential medicines. If you’re feeling unwell, please stay home, call your physician and get medical advice. 

Personal Protective Actions While on Vacation

A Monroe County (Florida Keys) ordinance requires everyone to carry a facial covering capable of immediate use and requires that masks be worn when inside of a business and also outdoors when a social distance of six feet from another person is not possible. In the city of Key West, the wearing of facial coverings is mandatory indoors and outdoors  (anywhere outside a residence or hotel/lodging room) regardless of social distancing. 

Business establishments include various lodging facilities, restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, indoor attractions, museums, retail or clothing shops, beauty salons, health spas, and other public settings.

Dr. Mark Whiteside, medical director of the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County, advises that wearing a simple surgical-type mask or facial covering can be effective, especially when done in conjunction with social distancing.

Centers for Disease Control protective protocols:

The CDC recommends types of masks that are most effective to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Masks that fit properly should fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face.

In addition, the  CDC recommends guidelines for how to safely wear and take off a face covering. Other precautions include:

  • 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.

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 recommends refraining 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, and offers a great opportunity to take advantage of outdoor activities and the natural beauty of sea and sky.

Airline Travel

Both Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International Airport continue to operate. Always reconfirm flight schedules with your air carrier prior to traveling.

At Key West International Airport, a coronavirus-fighting robot patrols the airport’s interior spaces after hours, and emits high-intensity ultraviolet UV-C wavelength light that kills harmful pathogens in the air and on surfaces. The ultraviolet disinfection robot, designed by UVD Robots, is designed to remove 99.9% of pathogens including COVID-19. Key West International Airport is among the first airports in the United States to acquire one of the sophisticated units that provides non-chemical disinfection, according to a manufacturer’s representative. 

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 thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between rentals, in accordance with these standards. Contactless check-in and payment processes are being utilized when possible. 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. Extras of these items may not be provided.

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 to be worn outdoors when social distancing of six feet or more between persons is not possible.

In the City of Key West, the wearing of facial coverings is mandatory indoors and outdoors (anywhere outside a residence or hotel/lodging room) regardless of social distancing. 

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 operating at full capacity indoors and outdoors, 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. Masks must be worn at indoor and outdoor restaurants, if not seated.

Inquire whether restaurant menus are online or viewable on a personal device, or are single use and disposable versus laminated, reusable menus.

Bars statewide are also open at full capacity. Social distancing of six feet must be maintained and bar service is allowed only to seated patrons. Facial covering mandates must be observed. 

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, visitor centers and public gardens, refrain from using touchscreens or interactive exhibits.

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.

In the city of Key West, the wearing of facial coverings is mandatory in all outdoor areas, regardless of social distancing. This includes when individuals are recreating at parks, beaches, dog walking, bicycling, etc. 

In Islamorada, Founders Park, Anne's Beach, Library Beach Park, and the area known as the Fills (between mile marker 77.5 and 79.8) are open at 50 percent capacity. 

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 visitor safety considerations. It is recommended to check each park's website in advance, to confirm available amenities.  

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. The Garden Key visitor center also has reopened. At Everglades National Park, visitor centers remain closed, although camping is open. Face masks are required in all federal buildings and federal lands. Park operations vary based on local public health conditions.

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. Individuals can remove their face coverings while actively exercising in Keys gyms, including Key West, provided the gym patron engaged in a workout or class is at least 6 feet of distance from the next closest patron. Facial coverings are required to be worn 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.

Wedding Ceremonies

Brides, grooms and marital couples can remove masks during a wedding ceremony and when taking photographs afterward. Otherwise, facial coverings are required of wedding party members and guests. In the city of Key West, this mask requirement applies to both indoor and outdoor weddings.

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.

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. 

Please dispose of used masks, gloves and other personal items in waste containers. Do not discard them on tables, on the floor or ground, along a roadway or near the shoreline.

The Florida Keys tourism industry wants you to remain healthy throughout your stay, and return home as healthy or healthier, and hopefully even happier, than when you arrived.


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Lodging staff are paying special attention to the disinfecting standards for visitor accommodations.

Lodging staff are paying special attention to the disinfecting standards for visitor accommodations.

Bar counter service is provided to seated customers.

Bar counter service is provided to seated customers.

Public beaches are open in the Florida Keys from sunrise to dusk.

Public beaches are open in the Florida Keys from sunrise to dusk.

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The Florida Keys tourism industry wants you to enjoy your visit, and to remain healthy and happy during your stay.

The Florida Keys tourism industry wants you to enjoy your visit, and to remain healthy and happy during your stay.

This article was updated on February 23, 2021 at 9:51 AM
The Keys to Sustainable Travel