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COVID-19 Personal Protective Recommendations While on Vacation

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COVID-19 Visitor Recommendations for the Florida Keys

The Health and Safety of Keys Residents and Visitors Remain Top Priority

We may be living in a ‘new normal’ due to the global coronavirus pandemic, but so many elements that draw people to the Florida Keys remain unchanged. Visitors still find welcoming lodging options, wide-open spaces, endless blue water for diving and fishing, eco-tourism activities, unique attractions and a laid-back atmosphere where they can relax and recharge.

To reinforce tourism-related businesses' coronavirus protective practices, visitors to the island chain are strongly encouraged to be mindful of personal spaces, respect current regulations, wear face coverings in public when necessary and continue to take other measures to protect their health and traveling companions as well as Keys residents.

The coronavirus situation remains extremely fluid with the potential to change rapidly, even on a daily basis. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.

COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Keys

There is usually an ample supply of different COVID-19 vaccines available in the Keys for residents and visitors. For more details, including locations, please go to Monroe County’s state health department website.

Personal Protective Actions While on Vacation

In July 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that even for individuals who have been fully vaccinated, the wearing of facial masks/coverings indoors and outdoors and social distancing are recommended to safeguard against COVID-19.

According to the CDC website, "to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission."  You should continue to wear a mask where required by laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.  

Currently, there is not a statewide mandate in Florida making the wearing of facial masks required. However, individual businesses in the Keys may require that masks be worn inside their establishment, so it is suggested that people carry a facial covering available for immediate use. 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. 

In the City of Key West, local officials have mandated that facial coverings/masks must be worn indoors at all municipal, city-owned facilities including, but not limited to, Key West City Hall and police and fire departments. 

Visitors and staff also are required to wear facial coverings inside all Monroe County-controlled buildings, unless at least six feet of distance can be maintained. Exceptions are to be made for individuals with a documented medical condition or disability that prevents the wearing of masks. These buildings include, but are not limited to, county government buildings, libraries, and building and permitting offices.

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, particularly for people who are not fully vaccinated. If you’re feeling unwell, please stay home, call your physician and get medical advice. 

Social Gatherings and Distancing

In July 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that even for individuals who have been fully vaccinated, the wearing of facial masks/coverings indoors and outdoors and social distancing are recommended.  According to the CDC website, "to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission."  You should continue to wear a mask where required by laws, rules, regulations, or local guidance to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.  

Florida officials currently do not have mandates regarding gatherings' group size. 

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 are operating normally. 

Airports are among the venues where masks are a legal requirement, as are commercial airplanes and federally controlled transportation hubs, including public buses.

At Key West International Airport, a coronavirus-fighting robot named R2Key2 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 was 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 have implemented American Hotel & Lodging Association COVID-19 guidelines for enhanced, best-practice health, cleanliness and safety. At the property's discretion, mask-wearing may be requested.

Check websites of your hotels and other lodging facilities to learn what current 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, or self-parking options.

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.

Dining and Bars

Restaurants, food establishments and bars are operating at full capacity indoors and outdoors, often with social distancing observed. At the establishment's discretion, masks or facial coverings may be requested.

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. 

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 and mask requirements may be in place, in addition to contactless protocols such as electronic safety waivers for watersports, diving, snorkeling, fishing charters and boat tours. 

Public beaches in the Florida Keys are open from dawn to dusk with limited amenities. 

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 are fully operational. Camping, use of restrooms and recreational boating are also permitted. Entrance fees do apply. At Everglades National Park, visitor centers remain closed, although camping is allowed. Face masks currently 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. Individual businesses may request facial coverings or social distancing, and hand washing and sanitizing are recommended.

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 personal protection.

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), Fishermen’s Community 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. Testing locations in Monroe County can be found here

Respect Others and Have a Great Time

When traveling to the Florida Keys, please plan ahead and come prepared. You have the personal responsibility to protect yourself and others in terms of public health.

Visitors are strongly encouraged to be mindful of personal space, respect local regulations and practices (such as wearing face coverings when needed) 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.

 

When traveling to the Florida Keys, please plan ahead and come prepared. You have the personal responsibility to protect yourself and others in terms of public health.

When traveling to the Florida Keys, please plan ahead and come prepared. You have the personal responsibility to protect yourself and others in terms of public health.

When patrolling airport spaces after hours, the coronavirus-fighting robot 'R2Key2' emits high-intensity ultraviolet UV-C wavelength light that kills harmful pathogens in the air and on surfaces.

When patrolling airport spaces after hours, the coronavirus-fighting robot 'R2Key2' emits high-intensity ultraviolet UV-C wavelength light that kills harmful pathogens in the air and on surfaces.

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.

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 September 23, 2021 at 12:10 PM
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