Wearing masks while shopping in Key Largo.

Wearing masks while shopping in Key Largo.

Monroe County continues to monitor the status of COVID-19 cases and hospital capacities in conjunction with the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County and local municipalities. The County is also closely monitoring Miami-Dade’s increasing protective measures and corresponding local impacts.

“We understand the gravity of the situation and while we are confident in our ability to respond to any surge in cases, it is important for our residents, visitors, and businesses to follow the protective measures in place. To help slow the spread of this disease in our community, when you cannot social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands, and try to avoid crowds and crowded places,” said Monroe County Emergency Management Director Shannon Weiner. “No one wants to place additional restrictions, but we are prepared to do so if the conditions warrant. We are our own best defense.”

If the outlined conditions dictate, the County will consider curfews to allow for additional social distancing in evenings, short-term rental bans, lodging establishment capacity restrictions, and closure of businesses with multiple COVID-19 related code violations. Several cases lately have been attributed to the service industry, according to Bob Eadie, Monroe County’s Health Administrator.

As a proactive step to help slow the spread in the community, Monroe County recommends that all lodging establishments voluntarily limit their occupancies and avoid renting to guests visiting from states with cases higher than 700 per 100,000 people (as per the state-approved “Short-Term Vacation Rental Reopening Plan for Monroe County,” which can be found at www.monroecountyem.

com/covid19.) Lodging managers should consult the Center for Disease Control’s website at www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/index.html#cases to guide decision-making on current hotspots.

Industry cooperation and self-imposed limitations now may stave off the need for the County to reimpose stricter protective measures later.

The County has received numerous complaints of vacation rentals exceeding their occupancy capacities with more than one family in one vacation rental. This practice contributes to the spread of the virus. Vacation rental operators are strongly encouraged to only rent to guests who live together in the same household or quarantine unit. If vacation rentals are exceeding limits of the number of people in them, please contact the owner of the vacation rental or the vacation rental company.

A reminder to all, Monroe County Emergency Directive 20-10 requires all persons over the age of six to wear a facial covering whenever away from their home and unable to engage in social distancing, this includes while outside. The directive requires operators and employees of business establishments to ensure that customers comply within the establishment. A face covering MUST cover the nose and mouth and may include a face mask, homemade mask, or other cloth, silk, or linen covering, such as a scarf, bandana, handkerchief, or other similar cloth covering. There are exceptions for those seated at a restaurant, and other exceptions can be found at www.monroecountyem.com/covid19.

The mandatory facial covering directive applies throughout Monroe County and the municipalities, but the municipalities may impose additional restrictions. By state law, violations of emergency directives are treated as misdemeanor offenses, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and up to $500 in fines. The directive supplements County ordinance 014-2020, which imposes similar mask requirements for all persons inside of business establishments. Ordinance violators face fines of up to $1,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for a repeat offense. Unincorporated Monroe County has received 79 complaints, four of which were found to be in non-compliance that were corrected on a follow up visit. A Key Largo fast food establishment will be the first business to receive a notice of violation under the ordinance.

In addition, the State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) issued an emergency order prohibiting alcoholic beverage sales for consumption on premises by bars. Under DBPR’s order, restaurants including those with liquor licenses must limit indoor dining to 50 percent capacity of their indoor seating capacity and continue to follow social distancing requirements. Report businesses violating the Governor’s Executive Order 20-139 to www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/emergency/.

Monroe County COVID-19 information www.monroecountyem.com/covid19.

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