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In The Keys, Testing For Tourists And Differing Rules For Masks

Erinn Harrelson tends bar at the 801 Bourbon Bar in Key West early Friday morning, when bars were allowed to reopen.
Gwen Filosa
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

As the Keys ramp up its tourism economy, hotels are being encouraged to let guests know about COVID-19 tests with results in an hour at the local hospital, and local governments are modifying requirements for masks and temperature checks.

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Bars were allowed to reopen in the Keys on Friday, unlike the rest of South Florida. The county took down its checkpoint and allowed hotels to welcome back guests on June 1.

In Monroe County, which serves as the local government for unincorporated areas like Key Largo and the Lower Keys, masks are "highly recommended" but not required inside of businesses or in public settings where people may be within 6 feet of each other.

However, in Key West, where the Sunset Celebrationat Mallory Square is allowed again, masks are still required at all businesses except for when people are eating and drinking. Tarot card and crystal ball readers in the square have to wear disposable gloves.

Health and temperature screenings are still required for all workers at a business but only "strongly recommended in instances when individuals will be near others without their face coverings for an extended period of time and the separation measures less than the recommended 6 feet," according to the Key West regulations.

Overnight visitors to the Lower Keys are being asked to take a COVID-19 rapid test. The Lodging Association of the Florida Keys and Key West announced a partnership with the Lower Keys Medical Center for COVID-19 testing.

"For the safety of our Key West visitors and residents, Lower Keys Medical Center is offering voluntary, $80 COVID-19 testing to your guests should they become ill or present ill with an elevated temperature of 100.4 or above," according to a memo from the hospital that was sent to the Lodging Association.

People who test positive will have a second test for confirmation by the Department of Health and be directed to quarantine for two weeks.

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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.