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 4 — Fake 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. 5 — First vaccines are administered in Monroe County.
Jan. 21 — Publix 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 7 — State orders Monroe County to reopen schools fully for in-person instruction to all students who want it.