The Florida Keys island chain reopened to visitors Monday, June 1, after being closed to nonresidents since March 22 to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 during the global pandemic.
Reopening measures included the removal of health checkpoints on two roads into the island chain, and the suspension of airport health screenings — except for passengers on nonstop flights from designated COVID-19 hotspot states.
Keys lodging properties, restaurants, beaches, attractions, watersports and other businesses have implemented safeguards that include enhanced sanitizing, reduced occupancy limits, required social distancing and the wearing of masks, and barriers or increased space between seating areas and restaurant tables — with new signage designed to remind the public.
“It’s been a lot of sleepless nights,” said Mike Shipley, owner of the Island Bay Resort, a small property in Tavernier. “You didn’t know where the next dollar was going to come from.
“It is extremely exciting for us to get back open again,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for this for 10 weeks.
“We’re excited about guests coming back to our place and we’re excited to have guests coming back to the Florida Keys,” he said.
As visitors return to the island chain, officials’ messaging stresses personal health responsibility. The Keys tourism council’s website, fla-keys.com, highlights protective health practices for travelers to adopt while in the destination, intended to safeguard themselves and others.
The Keys tourism industry supports about 26,500 jobs, according to a recent analytic study, employing about 45 percent of the 125-mile island chain’s workforce.