Despite no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus so far in Monroe County, businesses -- especially in the tourism-driven Florida Keys -- are bracing for the pandemic's economic impact.
Following an executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis, Monroe County officials announced several protective measures Tuesday regarding bars and restaurants. As of 5 p.m., all bars and nightclubs in the county that receive 50% or more of their revenue need to be closed for the next 30 days. Restaurants will also be required to operate at 50% capacity, with seating six feet apart for tables.
County officials have not closed any beaches but people are expected to follow CDC recommendations and congregate in groups of less than 10 people. However, Key West has closed its largest public beach, Smathers Beach.
Despite these restrictions, plenty of restaurants and hotels in the Keys were seen still entertaining many people on Tuesday. Business owners and managers say they're in a dilemma and are not wanting to turn away people but are still wanting to stay virus-free.
“What we do hear is ranging from everyone must be closed, to don’t worry, it’s business as usual," said Rob Lebrun, the general manager of Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar.
With no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Monroe County, the allure of the Keys is evident, especially for one family visiting from New Jersey, where there are more than 175 confirmed cases.
“We’re trying to come down and have a good time and not worry about all that stuff going on. But the closer we get to home, we have to start figuring it out," Mike Schillingsford said.
Parks, county-owned spaces and libraries will remain open, and county-owned playgrounds are being sanitized twice a day, officials said.
On Sunday, Key West declared a state of emergency, which officials say would allow the city to quickly respond to any public health emergency.