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Keys To Tourists: Go Home

The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

In a move to prevent the spread of coronavirus, on Thursday evening Monroe County ordered hotels and other tourist lodging — like vacation rentals and RV parks — to close at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The county cited "the increasing cases [of coronavirus] in the counties north of Monroe County." As of 5 p.m. Thursday, there had been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Keys.

Hotels were directed to stop taking reservations immediately. The order is for two weeks, to be re-evaluated every day.

The Keys had seen fewer visitors but had held off on telling tourists to stop coming until now. While all bars in the state were closed Tuesday at the order of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Key West went further and directed restaurants to offer takeout and delivery service only.

The city of Key West also closed all parks and beaches. Most attractions had already closed but on Thursday, the city ordered all businesses where 10 or more people gather to stop by midnight — including museums, gymnasiums and fitness centers, and tour vehicles like tour boats and buses.

Monroe County is following the governor's directive on restaurants for unincorporated areas like the Lower Keys and Key Largo — 50 percent capacity, no groups larger than 10 and groups seated at least 6 feet apart. And parks and beaches are still open, with the same rules applying.

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Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.