COVID-19 Shuts Down Key West (Video)

In response to increasing concerns about potential coronavirus spread, Florida Keys government officials announced plans to temporarily close the island destination to visitors, beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 22. Keys hotels and other lodging properties are directed to close at that time.

The 125-mile island chain’s first confirmed case of coronavirus was announced late Thursday. Officials’ decision was spurred by the rapid increase in cases around the U.S. and the growing potential for risk to Keys visitors and residents.

“We understand that this is a tremendous inconvenience to our visitors as well as to our businesses, and more than an inconvenience to our workers — our families who live here,” said Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers. “But the health and safety of both our visitors and our residents is paramount.”

The Keys’ tourism industry generated more than $1.8 billion for the island chain’s economy in 2018, according to a recent analytic study, and supports about 26,500 jobs. Local industry leaders expect the coronavirus crisis to have a significant effect on the Keys’ economy.

“Definitely an impact on both visitors and Florida Keys residents,“ said George Fernandez, CEO of the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. “We know that 50 percent of the population depends on tourism as its base economy, so we know the impact of this will begin happening Sunday the 22nd.”

Keys officials said Monroe County continues to follow the directives of the Centers for Disease Control, the Florida Department of Health, and State of Florida Governor’s Office Executive Orders. The return of visitors is to be re-evaluated when conditions warrant.

“These are extraordinary times, and we all have to hunker down and do what’s best for our individual health as well as the health of our community,” said Carruthers.

FloridaKeysNewsBureau release posted on, Mar. 21, 2020


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