*Note to editors: A collection of nine spot images depicting reopening in the Upper Keys Monday can be downloaded at: https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/zBhgbrk0z2. Included is a drone aerial of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway and other images.
ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys — The Florida Keys 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, parks 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. In addition, new signage is in place to remind the public of the health protocols.
“We’re excited about guests coming back to our place and we’re excited to have guests coming back to the Florida Keys,” said Mike Shipley, owner of the Island Bay Resort, a small property in Tavernier.
“We’ve been waiting for this for 10 weeks,” Shipley said. “It’s been a lot of sleepless nights; you didn’t know where the next dollar was going to come from.”
The Keys tourism industry supports about 26,500 jobs, according to a recent analysis, employing about 45 percent of the 125-mile island chain’s workforce.
As visitors return to the island chain, officials’ messaging stresses personal health responsibility.
“Our messaging includes the idea of our visitors embracing protective measures such as hand washing, wearing of facial coverings and social distancing,” said Stacey Mitchell, director of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, the destination marketing office for the Florida Keys.
The tourism council’s website, fla-keys.com, highlights protective health practices for travelers to implement while in the destination, intended to safeguard themselves and others.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS