Florida Keys officials announced they are targeting Monday, June 1, to reopen the Keys to visitors following the island chain’s closure to tourists March 22 to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.
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. In addition, plans call for arriving passenger screenings at Key West International and Florida Keys Marathon International airports to be suspended as well.
Lodging is to be limited to 50 percent of standard occupancy during beginning stages of reopening. Local leaders are to examine the situation later in June to make determinations regarding relaxing occupancy restrictions.
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 leaders in those counties to begin reopening businesses and public facilities. Those were keys factors that led to the determination of a targeted Keys tourism reopening date.
Monroe County Mayor Heather 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.
Carruthers said the county plans to enforce health guidelines.
Keys tourism officials expressed gratitude that the subtropical island destination is reopening to visitors.
“We appreciate and have supported local government and health officials’ decisions to minimize coronavirus infection rates in the Keys,” said Rita Irwin, chair of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, the destination management office for the Florida Keys & Key West. “That said, we are most gratified that we can ease into hosting visitors again.
“Tourism is the economic lifeblood of the Keys and almost half of our workforce is employed in visitor-related jobs,” Irwin added.