Concern in Florida Keys about coronavirus as lobster mini season nears

The Florida Keys have seen a sharp increase in coronavirus cases since taking down their checkpoints and letting visitors back in. So what happens with the upcoming lobster mini season that brings even more people down to Monroe County?

KEY LARGO, Fla. – There are major COVID-19 concerns from a lot of people who live in the Florida Keys, and as the numbers continue to rise, Monroe County is trying to figure out what the next move should be.

In March, the county teamed up with the state to put in checkpoints that only residents and a select few others could get through, and it seemed to work.

Just one day after the checkpoints came down, the entire county only had 109 cases of COVID-19. But just a month and a half later, that number has ballooned to nearly 900.

Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers said Sunday on Local 10′s “This Week in South Florida” that “if we had a mask ordinance that was respected from Day 1, we probably would not be here today.”

“What we’re seeing is that the people who are coming to visit us are not respecting our restrictions about mask-wearing, and that’s why we’re in this position,” she said.

With COVID-19 cases spiking in the Florida Keys, Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers joined TWIS to discuss what's being done.

And now lobster mini season is approaching quickly, bringing with it the promise of a massive influx of visitors. So the county is trying to figure out what to do next.

On Friday, restaurants and alcohol sales will have to shut down starting at 11 p.m., and more restrictions could be on the horizon.

Gabriel Gonzalez, who runs a boat rental company in Key Largo, says if they end up shutting down public parks and marinas, private boat ramps like the one next to his shop will get bombarded.

“It gets a bit crazier and it gets out of hand at times,” he said. “What I’m expecting, I have a feeling that Monroe County, the sheriff will come over here and shut it down completely.”

On Tuesday morning the county will be having a meeting to discuss all of this — including whether they should ask the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to cancel lobster mini season, and what they’ll be doing about vacation rentals as well.

So far, the FWC says they are moving forward with the mini season as planned.

Monroe County has asked residents not to call 911 to ask about the status of lobster mini season, urging them to check and the county’s Facebook page for updates.

About the Author:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.