Conchs acknowledge St. Patrick’s Day — March 17, 2020 — as the day the pandemic came to the Florida Keys. But even before that, there were serious warning signs on the horizon: what was happening in Italy and New York City and the cruise industry’s voluntary cessation of operations on March 14.

Here’s a look back at some island milestones:

March 17 — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis orders the closure of all bars and nightclubs and limits restaurant capacity to 50%.

March 20 — Monroe County orders hotels to shut down and vacation rentals to cease. 

March 27 — A roadblock is put up at the top of the Keys, turning away anyone who wasn’t a resident or couldn’t prove employment in the Florida Keys. 

March 30 — Monroe County School District begins full virtual instruction for all students.

April 4Fake re-entry placards are spotted by deputies by non-residents attempting to enter the Keys.

April 7 — The third Keys resident death from COVID-19 is reported.


June 1 — The roadblock is removed and tourism immediately picks up. 

June 5 — DeSantis says bars can reopen, but they close again 19 days later. 

June 24 — Cases almost double in the month since the highway opens, going from 108 to 174 COVID-19 cases.

June 29 — Keys businesses scramble to apply for first wave of PPP loans. About 1,500 Keys businesses were approved for loans totaling $100 million in the first wave of grants.

July 4 — The county and municipalities close most parks and beaches to keep visitors away over the Fourth of July weekend.

July 16 — By mid-July, officials are keeping count of how many patients are being hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Keys.

Sept. 25 — The state enters final phase of reopening, lifting occupancy limits on businesses

Oct. 22 — County reopens parks for youth sports.

Nov. 17 — Florida Keys averaging 32 new cases a day.

Dec. 4 — City of Key West announces curfew for New Year’s Eve

Jan. 4 — COVID-19 outbreak closes Village of Islamorada administration offices.

Jan. 5First vaccines are administered in Monroe County.

Jan. 21Publix begins giving vaccinations in the Keys.

Feb. 4 — Keys Weekly reports that the 7 Mile Bridge Run will occur on April 17, 2021, one of the first big events in the Keys since the pandemic began.

March 7State orders Monroe County to reopen schools fully for in-person instruction to all students who want it.

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