Key West

Nancy Klingener / WLRN

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.

Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau

There’s a lot of talk about the new normal, but what does that mean in a place where the old normal had changed so much already?

Bob Care / Florida Keys News Bureau

As a tourist destination, the Keys rely on events to bring people to the island chain. But large gatherings are discouraged during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Key West City Commission this week gave the go-ahead to an event that usually draws large crowds to the island's Atlantic shore: Fourth of July fireworks.


The Florida Keys officially reopen to tourists Monday.

But in attempt to broadcast this important milestone, the Keys’ tax-funded advertising group has drawn criticism for an electronic billboard about the return of tourism that stole a phrase from Martin Luther King Jr.,’s “I Have a Dream...” speech from 1963, delivered in Washington, D.C.

Mark Hedden / Special to WLRN

About 2 million people a year visit Key West — and almost half of them get there on cruise ships. With the industry on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, some folks on the island are working on a reset.

Trice Denny / Naval Air Station Key West

Naval Air Station Key West is like a small city within the Keys — so it's had its own response to COVID-19. There are about 5,500 employees and dependents, with an airfield, a port and annexes all over the island.

Mainland South Florida has the most cases of COVID-19 in the state. Monroe County, to the south has far fewer cases — but it's also got a much smaller population. And the Keys have done all they can to wall themselves off.

It's all led to a strange feeling as a place known for welcoming everyone suddenly changes its attitude.


Local governments are taking more precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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.