Florida Keys closing to visitors starting Sunday evening


Rain clouds begin to form over the upper Keys, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008. Officials in the Florida Keys started a phased evacuation for residents Sunday morning after telling visitors a day earlier to get out. Ike, a dangerous Category 4 storm with winds early Sunday of near 135 mph, was forecast to affect the Keys starting Monday night on a potential track for the central Gulf. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

(ABC NEWS) — Government officials at the Florida Keys are closing the island to visitors this weekend, citing concerns about coronavirus transmitions threats.

The announcement came from officials late Thursday evening.

The island destination will be closed to visitors beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 22. Florida Keys lodging businesses are directed to close at that time. 

The only exception is for long-term renters in vacation homes and R/V parks with contracts of 28 days or more, who are presently in the Keys. They are to be allowed to remain until the conclusion of their contracts.

Hotels are directed to stop taking new reservations effective immediately, officials said. They added that they will re-evaluate the tourism closures and make changes when appropriate.

There are no confirmed coronavirus cases in the Keys, according to Bob Eadie, the administrator and health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County. But officials were concerned about increases in cases in the U.S. and a growing potential risk to Keys visitors and residents.

“We know that closing down the tourism industry is a major inconvenience for our visitors,” said Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers. “But the health and safety of our visitors and residents are paramount.

“We certainly hope our visitors will return to the Keys once the coronavirus crisis has passed,” she added. “We also understand the economic impacts all Keys businesses and families will likely face.”

Carruthers said that Monroe County continues to follow the directives of the Centers for Disease Control, the Florida Department of Health, and State of Florida Governor’s Office Executive Orders.

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