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Masks On, Fireworks Off In Key West

Nancy Klingener
Key West requires people to wear masks outside if they can't social distance from other people.

In Key West, you're now required to wear a mask when on the premises of any business and also if you're out and about and you're within 6 feet of other people.

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Everyone over the age of 6 is also required to carry a face covering with them when they leave the house.

The city already had an emergency directive in place requiring masks. The ordinance replaces that, tightens some of the rules and adds more enforcement options.

"Unfortunately, we have some tourists who are coming to Key West and disrespecting our community, disrespecting our rules, failing to pay attention to what is really needed to help reduce the spread" of COVID-19, said Commissioner Sam Kaufman.

The vote was unanimous.

"Any time you're up and moving around through a population where you can't social distance, you have to have a mask on," said Mayor Teri Johnston. "It's really simple."

There are a few exceptions — you don't have to wear a mask if you're seated and eating or drinking. Or if you're working out at a gym at least 6 feet from other people.

The ordinance can be enforced by city code and police officers. Violators will be warned, then could face a civil citation or misdemeanor criminal charge, each carrying a penalty of $500.

If a business is cited twice for not enforcing the rules with customers or employees, the mayor will be able to shut it down for 24 hours.

"It's just not a cost of doing business to violate and get a $500 fine each time," said City Attorney Sean Smith. "That's the real hammer on the business side of this."

Smith said the intent is to educate, not seek out violations – but the city wanted some teeth in the enforcement.

"We've had issues with businesses well over their permitted occupancy that have been asked and warned numerous times but just have not complied," he said.

Commissioners also unanimously decided to cancel the Fourth of July fireworks display, after seeing the rising number of cases in South Florida and the behavior of visitors on the island. Beaches will remain open.