Miami-Dade Transit to modify Southbound Schedule; MM 91 is final stop in Florida Keys (4/9 tiff)

Due to the increasing threat of COVID-19, the Miami-Dade Transit-Dade Monroe Express (301 Route to Marathon) will modify its regular schedule to terminate southbound service at Tavernier Town Shopping Center (mile marker 91). It is estimated that the modification to the route will begin Friday, April 10 at 6 p.m.


Additional Documentation Required at Checkpoints; Reentry Sticker Distribution Suspended (4/6 Tiff)

Due to the presence of counterfeit reentry stickers over the weekend, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office began stopping vehicles with reentry stickers at the checkpoint. More than 200 reentry stickers were confiscated and motorists who had no additional documentation to prove they had a viable reason to be in the Keys were reminded that the Florida Keys are closed to visitors, and they turned around.

All residential reentry sticker distribution has been suspended in Monroe County, including at Monroe County Fire Rescue stations and the Monroe County Tax Collector’s offices.

Many motorists with the confiscated stickers stated they bought the stickers in Miami. None of those stopped with counterfeit stickers had a legitimate or legal reason to enter the Florida Keys.

Deputies are seizing all counterfeit stickers.

As a result, residents will need further documented proof of residency other than the reentry sticker to enter the Florida Keys. A reentry sticker alone is no longer adequate means to get through the checkpoint alone.


Islamorada Administrative Offices Remain Closed Through April 19 (4/4/ Tiff)

The Islamorada Administrative Center and Public Safety Headquarters will remain closed to the public until at least April 19, 2020. Administrative services continue as most employees are working remotely from home. Please send an email to staff members you may need to reach. Please refer to the Village Staff Directory.

Building Permits, Inspections and Development Orders will continue to be handled as described in the updated Building Official Memorandum.


Village Parks, beaches and the Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina remain closed until further notice. The walking and fitness trails and fields at Founders Park may be used by individuals maintaining social distancing guidelines and by groups of less than 10 people if all are from the same household. The restroom facilities at all parks, including the restroom at the entrance to Founders Park, are closed.


We are all Safer At Home. When you go out for food and other essential items, get the items you need, go directly to the checkout and return to your car. It is not appropriate right now to casually browse or linger in stores and shopping areas.  

Getting out of the house is recommended in open spaces where social distancing can be practiced.


Request your Vote-By-Mail  Ballot for Fall Elections (3/29 Tiff)

Now is a good time to request your vote by mail ballot for the fall elections.  Visit www.keyselections.org/Voters/Vote-by-Mail-Request to request Vote by Mail Ballots. Request forms are also available in English and Spanish if you prefer.  Just print, complete, and fax or email the form back to the county Elections Office.


Vessel travel through the channel will be restricted at times

New Components Steel Nighttime Installation on Snake Creek Canal Bridge (MM 85)

SR 5/Overseas Highway over Snake Creek Canal (MM 85) Bridge Rehabilitation Project (Contract # E-6K86)

From Monday, April 6, through Friday, April 10, the contractor will be installing new steel components on the bridge starting at 8 p.m. nightly. This work may require that the bridge be opened periodically for approximately 15 minutes each time. During installation, traffic will be stopped by the bridge gates in both directions.

Please avoid the area after 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. if possible, or plan for a possible delay.

Through a separate FDOT project, work continues in the water at the Snake Creek Bridge (MM 85) for repairs to the existing fender system. Channel will be restricted at times. Please proceed with caution through the channel. The hourly openings will remain as scheduled.

Please exercise extreme caution when traveling in project areas.  

For more information, please call Construction Community Outreach Specialist Paulette Summers at (786) 510-3921, or FDOT’s Public Information Office at (305) 470-5349 or go to the website at www.fdotmonroe.com. 


Primary Election August 18, 2020

General Election November 3, 2020

Important links:

registertovoteflorida.gov/en/Registration/Index  – Register to vote on line

www.keyselections.org/Voters/Vote-by-Mail-Request  – Request a Vote by Mail ballot

www.keyselections.org/Voters/My-Vote-by-Mail-Status – Check your Vote By Mail Status 

The Elections Office will mail Vote by Mail ballot about 30 days prior to the election.  Any Voter may vote by mail as it is considered convenience voting. The ballot will be mailed to you, and you can vote from your home.  Let the office know if you do not get your ballot 3 weeks prior to the election, so they have time to send you another. Vote by Mail ballots will not be forwarded by the post office by law.

Remember to sign and mail your Vote-By-Mail request back early. Call (305) 292-3416 or visit www.KeysElections.org with questions.


Emergency Rules for Elections (4/2 Tiff) 

ATTENTION CANDIDATES, the following emergency rules are in effect:

Emergency Rule 1SER20-1 Designation of Division of Elections as Filing Office for Department of State; Requirements for Candidate Qualifying Papers; Withdrawal of Candidacy.

Removes the requirement that the qualifying items be “original[s] and signatures thereon…be made in ink” so that these items can be collected, notarized, and submitted with limited person-to-person contact.  Provides for qualifying documents to be submitted via email. Notary statements on required forms will be revised accordingly.    

Emergency Rule 1SER20-2  Candidate Petition Process

Removes the requirement that the voter’s signature on a candidate petition be an “original, ink signature” so that signed petitions can be collected without person-to-person contact. 

If you have questions, please contact me at [email protected] DOS.MyFlorida.com or 850-245-6295.

Online Resources for Learning/Exploration of the Sanctuary (4/1 Tiff)

Florida Keys Boater Education Course – floridakeys.noaa.gov/onthewater/education.html

Blue Star programs – Dive/snorkel operators, fishing guides and their staff can sign up and train online to become sanctuary-recognized operators that are dedicated to conserving the Keys natural and cultural resources. sanctuaries.noaa.gov/bluestar/become.html 

Florida Keys Virtual Dives – sanctuaries.noaa.gov/vr/florida-keys/

Includes: Christ of the Abyss, Cheeca Rocks Sanctuary Preservation Area, Coral Nursery, Aquarius Reef Base, Benwood Wreck

Sanctuaries At Home: Learn about the Ocean, Atmosphere, and Great Lakes While at Home

sanctuaries.noaa.gov/news/mar20/sanctuaries-at-home-education-resources.html?fbclid=IwAR1cBmPjG6ZPwXHWY9gYXWfcf2pzXQvuJaFIN70slDKI9Mnd8DWTUVVTb0k 


No reentry stickers available in Islamorada, Key Largo

Fire stations in Islamorada and Key Largo do not have reentry stickers. If you don’t have a sticker, you may show local identification, a utility bill, deed, lease or tax bill at the checkpoint to enter the Keys. Please do not go to these fire stations for stickers.


Sewer officials: Don’t flush the wrong stuff

Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District needs the public’s help protecting the wastewater system due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. People are cleaning and disinfecting more frequently with bleach wipes and potentially substituting other items for toilet paper, such as baby wipes and paper towels.

The sewer district is asking customers to throw these items in the trash, not flush them down the toilet. These items do not break down in the sewer system and can cause significant clogs that could lead to equipment failures and treatment plant issues.

Toilet paper and human waste are the only things that should be flushed down the toilet. Otherwise, it can cause costly clogs or back-ups in your sewer system.

The following should never be flushed: disposable wipes (even if marked “flushable”), wet wipes, paper towels, face-cleaning wipes, grease / oils, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs or balls, diapers, dental floss, medicine, vitamins, cigarettes, cigar butts.


Monroe WIC offering assistance to families 

The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County’s WIC (Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children) offers food, nutrition and breastfeeding assistance to low-income pregnant women or families with infants or children under 5 who live in Monroe County.  Those individuals or families who meet this criteria and are experiencing a loss of income due to the COVID-19 crisis are encouraged to sign up for WIC to help with food costs. Families that meet this criteria and are currently receiving unemployment or Medicaid benefits automatically qualify for WIC benefits.  Others will need to provide proof of income and/or explain income loss to qualify.

For more information or to apply:  Key West area: call 305-676-3852; Upper Keys call 305-676-3933.  (During the COVID-19 Pandemic, all applications will be done by phone and necessary documents can be faxed or emailed; please do not come to the WIC office).


Clerk offers marriage licenses in Marathon

The Monroe County Clerk of Courts and Comptroller, Kevin Madok, announced the resumption of limited marriage license services, effective March 30. 

The services will be limited to Monroe County residents and will only be offered at the Marathon Clerk’s Office, 3117 Overseas Hwy., by appointment only. No licenses will be issued at the Key West or Plantation Key offices. The agency remains unable to conduct marriage ceremonies due to the social distancing requirements.

For an appointment, call 305-289-6347. For other questions, contact us online at www.clerk-of-the-court.com or via phone at 305-292-3458 Key West; 305-289-6027 Marathon; and 305-852-7145 Plantation Key.


Boater education offered online

Through a free, online course, boaters can learn how to protect themselves, their vessels and the Florida Keys marine environment. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary created the voluntary course to inform the boating public about the natural and historical resources, provide strategies for responsible boating and highlight sanctuary rules and regulations. The 30- to 45-minute course is available in English and Spanish at floridakeys.noaa.gov with a completion certificate provided. The course complements existing safe boating courses.

The boater education course is a component of the sanctuary’s current management plan review process. 

More information is available from Gena Parsons at [email protected] or 305-809-4694.

In addition, Florida Everglades National Park now requires completion of an online Boater Education Course and a Boater Permit, but both are free and available online.

Report Vacation Rental Noncompliance with Emergency Directives

Vacation Rentals: To report short term vacation rentals not complying with the emergency directive, please call the Tax Collector’s Transient Rental Hotline at 855-422-4540. The tax collector’s office will be following up with the non-compliance of the directive throughout Monroe County.

Remember, the ban does not include rentals for military, first responders, health care workers, and construction workers actively engaged in projects in Monroe County.


Monroe County Libraries are Closed for In-Person Visits; Virtual Programming Continues

The Monroe County Library System branches are now closed to in-person visits until April 6. While physical locations will be closed due to safety concerns regarding COVID-19, the libraries will continue to serve the community. Library staff will be available by telephone Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for reference, renewal of material, and assistance for new users in the creation of an E-Library card. The E-Library card will allow users access the library system’s digital collection and electronic resources. The “Ask-a-Librarian“ service will be expanded to provide reference services via chat and email. Librarians will provide, using the branch’s respective Facebook Live and website pages, daily virtual programming such as story time, book talk on our digital collection, and training sessions on our digital resources. Drop boxes will remain open at all locations and late fees will be suspended. Contact your local branch library or visit the library website at www.keyslibraries.org for additional links and information.


Florida National Guard is Responding to Needs

The Florida National Guard (FLNG), under the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, is responding to the needs of the state alongside our interagency partners, helping to protect citizens and guests throughout this crisis.

The Florida National Guard has 1,010 Guardsmen on State Active Duty in support of Florida’s COVID-19 response, and is preparing to expand support to Community-Based Testing Sites (CBTS) in Miami-Dade and Orange counties in the near future.

The Broward County CBTS administered 531 sample collections yesterday, for a total of 1,276 since operations began there.

The FLNG Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen are also mobilized in support of the State Logistics Readiness Center (SLRC) in central Florida, ensuring needed supplies are getting to the right place at the right time across the state. Additionally, FLNG members are working in the State Emergency Operations Center and local emergency management offices across the state, serving as liaisons, ensuring local authorities understand the capabilities and equipment of the FLNG.

As this crisis continues, the Florida National Guard will maintain a ready force across the state for a variety of missions to include medical support and distribution of necessary commodities.

It is important to remember that even though the FLNG is in active response to COVID-19, all FLNG personnel and families are encouraged to follow the guidance put out by the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information about COVID-19 and the State of Florida’s response, visit www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/COVID-19/covid19-toolkit.html.


Monroe County Sheriff’s Office headquarters and substations to be closed to the public due to COVID-19 until further notice

In an effort to maintain public safety due to the threat of COVID-19, Monroe County Sheriff Office headquarters on Stock Island and the substations on Cudjoe Key, Marathon, Islamorada and Plantation Key closed to the public effective 5 p.m., March 20 until further notice.

Citizens will not be able to access lobbies or buildings, however non-emergency phone lines to the Sheriff’s Office offices will remain available during normal business hours.

The closures are being taken in-step with Monroe County and local municipal governments in an effort to protect the residents of the Florida Keys. 

All emergency services will still be provided as usual and that includes 911 phone services (Please see special note below).  

This announcement does not affect Sheriff’s Office employees who are to report to work or work from home as per their supervisor’s instruction.

Special Note: Please do not call 911 or the Communications Center non-emergency phone line for COVID-19 questions. 911 is strictly for emergencies only.

Our non-emergency lines will be open:

  • Headquarters, 5525 Stock Island, 305-292-7000
  • Cudjoe Key, 20950 Overseas Highway, 305-745-3184
  • Marathon, 3103 Overseas Highway, 305-289-2430
  • Plantation Key, 50 High Point Road, 305-853-3211

 For COVID-19 questions call these hotline numbers:

  • Florida Department of Health (Monroe County) 866-779-6121
  • City of Key West, 305-809-1101

Dry Tortugas National Park closes campground on Garden Key

Dry Tortugas National Park is announcing modifications to operations to implement the latest guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and local and state authorities to provide for the safety of visitors and park staff. Dry Tortugas National Park has closed the campground and the campground restroom on Garden Key until further notice. Where it is possible to adhere to the latest health guidance, park waters, Loggerhead Key, Garden Key with Fort Jefferson and the harbors will remain open at this time. No restrooms or visitor services are available. The visitor center and bookstore remain closed. Visitors to the park should be self-sufficient.

Dry Tortugas also offers a variety of digital materials on the park’s website and videos on YouTube. Follow @DryTortugasNPS on social media for continued education and updates.

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners at Dry Tortugas National Park is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working with the federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels.  

The NPS urges visitors to do their part when visiting a park and to follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups; washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; and most importantly, staying home if you feel sick.  


Elections Offices closed to public

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections, R. Joyce Griffin announced that normal operations in her three offices are suspended and offices are closed to public access beginning March 20 until April 20, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re taking these measures because I believe it’s critically important to do our part to address this urgent public health issue,” said Joyce Griffin, Monroe County Supervisor of Elections. “At the same time, I’m committed to addressing the needs of our candidates, voters and the public remotely — through our website, email, phone — and by appointment when necessary.”

Monroe County residents can register to vote, update their voter registration information or sign up for Vote by Mail online at www.KeysElections.org, by email at [email protected], or by calling (305) 292-3416 in Key West; (305) 289-6017 in Marathon; or (305) 453-8740 in Key Largo.

Candidates or those wanting to be a candidate for office can contact us at (305) 292-3416 in Key West; (305) 289-6017 in Marathon; or (305) 453-8740 in Key Largo or by email at [email protected].

The following public meetings required to complete the 2020 Presidential Preference Primary will still be held at 530 Whitehead St. #101, Key West, FL 33040.

  • March 27, 4:30 p.m.: Certify official results
  • April 1, 10 a.m.: Conduct manual audit of election

FKAA offices closed to foot traffic

The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (Authority) will be suspending in-person services at its three customer service offices effective Monday, March 23. The authority is also suspending in-person services with customers in the field. The drive-through window at the Tavernier Customer Service Office will remain open. The authority is encouraging customers to use the variety of online service options available to manage their account at www.fkaa.com. This includes making payments, monitoring consumption, applying for meter installations, and a variety of other programs.


FKEC closing customer service offices to public

In response to the CDC’s guidance to implement social distancing to slow the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative is suspending in-person services at its Tavernier and Marathon customer service offices effective Monday, March 23. FKEC is also suspending in-person services with customers in the field. The drive-throughs at both office locations will remain open, and our inclusive online services are available 24/7.

FKEC encourages members to visit www.FKEC.com for a wide range of online services, including bill payment, account management, start/stop/transfer service, and a variety of other programs. Almost any service you can do in person you can do online at www.FKEC.com. Payments by phone can also be made via our secure phone payment system at (855) 385-9912. 

Co-op member service representatives can also be reached at [email protected] or call (305) 852-2431 with any questions, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.. An emergency operator is also available around the clock.

FKEC crews will still be on-call 24/7 to restore power should an outage occur. Should you see crews working in the field, please keep a safe distance to protect yourself from dangers associated with electrical repairs and the spread of COVID-19.

Please know, during times of concern and crisis, FKEC remains dedicated to serving the Upper and Middle Keys communities. Be assured, FKEC is here to meet our member’s electrical needs. For more information, visit www.FKEC.com, or follow us on Facebook.


Keys Energy Services halts in-person customer service  

Effective Monday, March 23, Keys Energy Services (KEYS) is indefinitely suspending in-person services at its James Street headquarters in Key West.

Utility crews also will begin practicing enhanced social distancing procedures while working in the field. Customers are asked to remain indoors while crews are working on their property. 

If customers do not abide by this request KEYS’ crews have been directed to immediately stop their work and leave the site to ensure their safety.

The electric utility encourages customers to use online options to conduct bill payments, service connection/disconnection/transfers and service requests at KeysEnergy.com. Customers may also email at [email protected] or call 305-295-1000.

There are no current plans to alter billing practices, but those experiencing hardships should use the same contact information to discuss payment arrangements.


Early shopping for seniors

Both Publix and Winn-Dixie have special shopping hours for seniors. 

Publix will be designating Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, from 7 to 8 a.m., as senior shopping hours for customers age 65 and over throughout the state of Florida. This change in hours will begin Tuesday, March 24, and continue until further notice. Publix pharmacies will also open at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to serve our senior population. Regular store hours, companywide are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and pharmacy hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. According to the CDC, individuals over the age of 65 are at an increased risk of complications from the COVID-19. Publix is offering these expanded hours to better support our elder community. 

Winn-Dixie welcomes senior shoppers from 8 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday in all of its stores. In addition, all pharmacy locations will be open at 8 a.m. The parent company Southeastern Grocers (of Winn-Dixie and Local Fresco) are also hiring individuals who have been affected by coronavirus layoffs, including those in the hospitality and restaurant industry.


County Clerks and Courts walk-in services closed

Monroe County Clerk of Courts and Comptroller, Kevin Madok, is announcing that public walk-in services to all three offices are suspended beginning March 20 for the next 30 days. This directive will be reassessed in two weeks.  

All normal clerk operations, except for marriage licenses and ceremonies, will continue uninterrupted. Those members of the public wishing to conduct other business at our offices may continue to do so. Drop boxes for documents will be provided in our outer lobbies.

“My goal through this emergency is to continue all services to the public,” said Kevin Madok, Monroe County Clerk of Courts. “Unfortunately, marriage licenses and ceremonies require in-person contacts and therefore will be suspended.” 

The clerk will continue to perform normal duties but encourages the public to conduct business using available on-line services where possible.

Please feel free to contact us online at www.clerk-of-the-court.com or via phone at (305) 292-3458 Key West; (305) 289-6027 Marathon; and (305)852-7145 Plantation Key.


‘Short Time Compensation Program’

The Short Time Compensation Program is a voluntary employer program designed to help employers maintain their staff by reducing the weekly working hours during temporary slowdowns instead of temporarily laying off employees.  

If an employer establishes a Short Time Compensation Plan and an employee meets the qualifications to file an reemployment assistance claim in the state of Florida, the employee will receive a partial reemployment check to supplement their reduced paycheck. The employer must fill out a plan application and meet other standards. The employee must be full-time and meet other standards. To learn more, visit FloridaJobs.org


TODAY’S CASES

According to the Florida Department of Health on March 20 at noon, there is 1 case of COVID-19 in Monroe County. According to the department, 87 patients have been tested, and 19 test results are still pending. Miami-Dade County has 113 cases and Broward County has 124 cases. 

Join Our Blast – Keys News Right to Your INBOX