Key West

Richard Congdon

This essay was part of an episode of The Sunshine Economy, focused entirely on the impact of the coronavirus on the tourism industry of the Keys:

The Keys may be a chain of islands where we love to talk about our independence and resilience. But we're also a peninsula, permanently tethered to the mainland, starting in 1912 when Henry Flagler ran his railroad tracks all the way to Key West.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

At the Roman Catholic basilica in Key West there's a grotto, where the faithful pray when hurricanes are approaching the island. And islanders are turning to it now, as they face a different threat.

Courtesy Celine Peccatte and Lizzy Hoke

By putting an end to travel and gatherings of people, the coronavirus has stopped not only businesses and conferences but also important personal events. Like weddings.

Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau

On this Monday, March 30, episode of Sundial:

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston

The Florida Keys have closed hotels, vacation rentals, some beaches and parks because of COVID-19. 

Legislature Rejects Local Sunscreen Bans

Mar 10, 2020
Nancy Klingener / WLRN

TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers are sending to Gov. Ron DeSantis a measure intended to block Key West and any other local governments from imposing bans on certain types of sunscreen.

The House voted 68-47 on Tuesday to pass the measure (SB 172), which would prohibit local governments from regulating drugs and cosmetics sold over the counter.

The bill, fast-tracked through the Senate in January, was crafted in response to plans by Key West to start enforcing next January a ban on the sale of sunscreens that contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

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.

William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection / Library of Congress

Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to songs like "Moon River" and "Accentuate the Positive" — music that is part of the Great American Songbook. 

Some Mercer songs — then new and recorded on a demo reel in the 1960s for a show that was never produced — were recently performed for the first time, in Key West.

Photos by Johnny White

On this Tuesday, Feb. 18, episode of Sundial:

Palm Beach County’s Election Concerns

Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Wendy Link told the Palm Beach Post last week that the county was targeted in a “ransomware” attack weeks before the 2016 presidential election. 

Wisteria Island, created by the U.S. Navy nearly a century ago, has been left untouched for decades, except by boaters and campers who make their homes there. It's a valuable piece of real estate that's now at the center of a court battle between a developer and the federal government who both say they own it.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN News

All across the Navy, bases are holding drills over the next two weeks to test their security. In Key West, they started out with an active shooter drill at the VA medical clinic on Monday. 

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Key West last year became the first place in the mainland U.S. to ban the sale of sunscreens containing two chemicals that studies have found harm coral. Now, a bill is making its way through the Legislature that could overturn that ban before it is implemented.

Florida Senate Takes Aim At Sunscreen Bans

Jan 29, 2020
News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE – Without any debate, the Florida Senate on Wednesday passed legislation that would prohibit local governments from regulating drugs and cosmetics sold over the counter.

The Senate fast-tracked the bill during this year’s legislative session after a similar proposal did not pass in 2019. The 25-14 vote Wednesday came as Key West prepares to enforce a ban on the sale of certain sunscreens next January. 

Two More Chinese Students Held After Shooting Photos At Key West Naval Base

Jan 7, 2020
GWEN FILOSA / Miami Herald

Key West visitors always flock to the town’s favorite tourist spots — Mallory Square, Duval Street, Ernest Hemingway’s home, and the Southernmost Point Buoy — to snap photos and record memories.

But apparently, not students visiting from China. For some reason, they seem to like taking pictures of military facilities in Key West.

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Last February, a Chinese man was sentenced to a year in federal prison after he got caught taking photographs of military buildings on the Navy base in Key West. Now, another Chinese man faces the same charge.

Walter Michot / Miami Herald

The environment will likely be a top story in Florida in the upcoming year. 2019 has been one of the hottest on record. King tides were some of the highest recorded. And, while Hurricane Dorian skirted along the Atlantic coast, it was a reminder of how vulnerable Florida is as climate change fuels more intense and wetter storms.