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Florida Keys re-opening to locals only

Restaurants, non-essential businesses opening, but checkpoints remain

KEY LARGO, Fla. – Monroe County remains closed to visitors even though it is far behind Florida's coronavirus case leaders in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Still, Mayor Heather Carruthers is keeping the Florida Keys closed to customers.

The checkpoints at mile marker 112.5 on U.S. 1 and State Road 905 will remain in place and screenings will continue at Key West International and Marathon Florida Keys airports.

"For the time being, the Keys are sadly closed to visitors. We really need to see a suppression of infection rates on the mainland and some of our tourism feeder markets before we can feel comfortable," said Carruthers.

After detailed discussions with the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County, the county will follow the Governor’s Executive Order 20-112. The new order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, May 4.

While the order doesn’t prohibit municipalities from being more restrictive, it does give those not excluded the green light to move forward.

The Governor’s order allows retail businesses to operate at 25 percent of building capacity, but does not allow businesses to provide personal services, such as manicures or haircuts. Restaurants are to operate at 25 percent of indoor capacity. Outdoor seating capacity will not be limited, as long as tables are 6 feet apart and seated parties are groups of 10 or less. According to the directive, bars and bar seating in restaurants must remained closed. Bars are considered a business that derives more than 50 percent of its revenue from alcohol sales.

In Monroe County, some re-opening of restaurants and non-essential businesses are for locals only, and that includes the city of Key West.

Carruthers said: "Perhaps earn a little bit money for their employees and work through protocols that will probably be in place for quite some time after we get back to whatever our new normal is. Things like social distancing and mask wearing; what is that going to look like at a retail shop? In a bait and tackle store? In a restaurant? That is where we are headed right now."

Monroe County will keep in place its visitor directive that requires vacation rentals and other lodging establishments to remain closed until further notice. Monroe County will continue the directive of using facial coverings in public settings.

“If you open up the Keys, everyone is going to want to come down here. It is just such a beautiful place,” said Zach Cooney of Key Largo who said he agrees with Monroe County’s decision to keep checkpoints in place.

"It is that checkpoint that has allowed us to keep our numbers low," Carruthers said.

As of April 30, Monroe County had 79 coronavirus cases and 3 deaths, according to the Florida Department of Health.

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