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The latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak in South Florida. This page ended its updates as of August 2020. Head here for additional stories on COVID-19 and the pandemic.

Key West Prepping For Coronavirus Like It's A Hurricane — That's Still Far Away

Nancy Klingener
More than 100,000 people visited Key West by cruise ship in February. The city says it's the Coast Guard's call on whether to close the port.

Key West is a small town with about 25,000 residents — but it receives many times its population in visitors from all over the world. So the city is getting ready for possible cases of the illness caused by the coronavirus.

City Manager Greg Veliz told city commissioners that paramedics will take precautions with anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19. That means that anyone presenting symptoms of the disease will be asked questions and if they are determined to be in a high-risk group, the paramedics will wear extra safety gear and protect the inside of the ambulance.

Lower Keys Medical Center, the only area hospital, has asked that anyone who has those symptoms call before coming over, so they can be met outside and evaluated, Veliz said.

He said the medical center has seven isolation rooms — and a Plan B.

"If in fact they have an influx of multiple people outgrowing the capacity of the hospital, there is an agreement in place with the Navy in which the Navy will come in, set up a quarantine tent, for lack of a better term, and they will help staff that," he said.

Mayor Teri Johnston says the city is viewing the epidemic like a hurricane that's too far away to know whether it will hit.

"We're a prepared community," she said. "Just like a hurricane, get prepared and hope it passes."

More than 100,000 people visited Key West by cruise ship in February. Now, some residents are calling on the city to turn cruise ships away. But city officials say they have no control over closing the port — and that it's up to the Coast Guard to make that call.

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Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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