INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE: In shift, Florida Keys now requiring face masks until June 2021


In this drone aerial photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, traffic flows on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway in Islamorada, Fla., towards Key West Monday, June 1, 2020. (Andy Newman/AP)

In shift, Florida Keys now requiring face masks until June 2021


Visitors to the Florida Keys will need to bring along face masks or face a $500 civil fine.

In a Wednesday vote, the Monroe County Commission shifted from an earlier stance on face coverings, and now requires everyone including employees and customers to wear face coverings in any establishment.

The city of Key West already had this stricter ruling in place, but unincorporated parts of the Keys had relaxed such requirements, following the guidelines set forth by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statewide Phase 2 of his reopening plan that began on June 5.

The ordinance also allows other city governments in the Keys to opt out of the ordinance.

In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Alexeen Simms, a server at the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant in Islamorada, Fla., provides a luncheon entree to a couple Monday. June 1. 2020.
In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Alexeen Simms, a server at the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant in Islamorada, Fla., provides a luncheon entree to a couple Monday. June 1. 2020. (Andy Newman/AP)

Now, though, facial coverings are mandatory, and will be until June 1, 2021, although the commission will revisit the restriction on a quarterly basis.

“Facial coverings over the nose and mouth must be worn in business establishments and other public settings where there is a roof overhead,” said county spokesperson Kristen Livengood in a press release

There are exceptions including for those eating and drinking in a restaurant in bar, as well as while exercising in a gym as long as a six-foot social distance is maintained.

Also children ages 6 and younger are not required to wear a mask.

Coverings can be face masks, homemade masks, other cloth, silk or linen coverings like scarves, bandanas or handkerchiefs. The county stated that surgical face masks such as the N95 masks should be left for those on the front lines.

Officers that encounter people or businesses violating the face covering restrictions can issue a citation for up to $500, according to the draft ordinance adopted by the commission. Businesses won’t be held liable as long as they had asked customers in violation to adhere to the ordinance or otherwise vacate the property.

The county had been shut down to nonresidents until this month with checkpoints that went up in April to block tourist access coming down June 1.

At that point, the county had only seen 108 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths, according to the Florida Department of Health. As of June 17, the case total has risen by 19 more cases to 137 and no further deaths.

Miami-Dade to the north has 23,273 positive cases and 850 deaths, up from 18,000 positive cases and 700 deaths as of May 31, the most in the state.