On Monday (June 1st) the Florida Keys island chain reopened its doors to visitors once again, following its closure to non-residents on March 22nd due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Visible evidence of the Keys being open for business included the removal of health checkpoints on two roads into the island chain, along with the suspension of airport health screenings, with the exception of passengers on nonstop flights from designated COVID-19 hotspot states.
Properties, restaurants, beaches, watersports and visitor attractions are now open but have implemented safeguards to ensure everyone’s safety. This includes enhanced sanitising, reduced occupancy limits, required social distancing and the wearing of face masks. In some places this means either barriers or increased spacing in between restaurant tables and seating areas. You will also notice new signs to remind everyone that the new rules need to be adhered to.
Mike Shipley, who is the owner of the Island Bay Resort, a small property in Tavernier, says: “It’s been a lot of sleepless nights. You didn’t know where the next dollar was going to come from.”
“It is extremely exciting for us to get back open again. We’ve been waiting for this for 10 weeks. We’re excited about guests coming back to our place and we’re excited to have guests coming back to the Florida Keys.”
With visitors returning to the Florida Keys this week, the official message is very clear and stresses the need for every individual to take responsibility for their own and other people’s personal health. The Florida Keys tourism council’s website www.fla-keys.com highlights protective health practices for travellers and visitors to adopt while visiting or staying in the Keys, which is intended to safeguard themselves and others.
This is clearly an important and major step forward for this picturesque area of Florida, as the Keys tourism industry supports around 26,500 jobs and employs about 45 per cent of the 125-mile island chain’s workforce.
For more information on the Florida Keys and Key West, please visit: www.fla-keys.co.uk
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs by Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO