Florida Keys tourism-related businesses Monday began preparing to host visitors, after officials announced that June 1 is the planned date for resumption of tourism in the island chain.
The Keys have been closed to non-residents since March 22 to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.
Reopening plans include the June 1 removal of checkpoints on two roads leading from mainland South Florida to the Keys, and suspension of arriving passenger screenings at Key West International and Florida Keys Marathon International airports.
“I can’t say thank you enough to all of the government officials who have kept us safe and kept checkpoints in place for the necessary amount of time to keep our incidence down,” said Key West hotelier Diane Schmidt, who serves on the county’s tourist development council.
Officials said major factors in determining the targeted reopening date included the Keys’ decline in new coronavirus infections, and the lessening infection rate in Miami-Dade and Broward, the counties just north of the 125-mile island chain.
During the initial stage of reopening, hotels and other Keys lodging facilities are to be limited to 50 percent of standard occupancy. Local leaders plan to review and possibly relax those limits later in June.
The Keys will not be open to visitors during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend.
New disinfecting and social distancing guidelines, as well as mandatory use of face coverings for visitors and tourism employees, are to be implemented based on input from the Florida Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
“We are all aware that this is a tourism-based economy and that over half of our workforce is in tourism-related businesses, so it’s critical to get back to work and get people having something to look forward to and normalize — obviously with changes to our operations,” said Schmidt.
“The priority will always be safety first, hospitality second,” she added.