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Florida Keys Consider Returning Checkpoints to Flatten Virus Curve

Virus Outbreak Florida
A sign welcomes visitors in Key Largo, in the Florida Keys, during the new coronavirus pandemic, Monday, June 1, 2020. The Florida Keys reopened for visitors Monday after the tourist-dependent island chain was closed for more than two months to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Florida Keys are considering putting up a checkpoint to prevent visitors from coming into the islands, in an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi says, “We are now over 700 cases in the last six weeks since we opened the checkpoint. Some folks are not behaving properly. That’s why we are seeing the spike that we are seeing.”

While the checkpoint was up for 10 weeks earlier this year, no non-Keys residents were reported to have the coronavirus.

Cases in the Florida Keys hovered around one hundred at that time, with four deaths reported. Now, six people are reported to have died there from the virus.

“Last Friday, we had eight people in the hospital. Now, we have 21. Threefold in just one week. Do the math and we are going to run out of hospital space real quick,” says Gastesi.

With that in mind,  Monroe County is trying to flatten the curve by cracking down on some policies.

From July 24 through August 19, all restaurants and bars will close at 11 p.m., and no alcohol will be sold between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

In additional, law enforcement officials are looking ahead to some of their signature events, such as lobster mini-season.

“We are probably going to treat lobster mini-season similar to what we did during the Fourth of July and try to curtail the crowds as much as we can. That worked well and we had a good Fourth of July,” according to Gastesi.

Masks are already required whenever locals and visitors are within six feet of each other, inside or out.

Business owners are fully responsible for customer compliance, and law enforcement will cite anyone who does not comply.

“Yes, the checkpoints are under consideration. It is still on the table. Not something we want to do. Again, we hope we can manage with the measures but checkpoints are on the table, yes,” adds Gastesi.

On a related note, if a Keys’ business discovers that an employee has tested positive, that establishment must disinfect and close for three days.