KEY LARGO, FLA. (WSVN) - As the number of coronavirus cases in the Florida Keys continues to climb, authorities will be setting up two checkpoints along U.S. 1 to prevent tourists from entering in an attempt to help prevent the virus from spreading.
Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies will be setting up the checkpoints along the roadway, Friday morning.
One checkpoint will be at Mile Marker 112.5 on U.S. 1 southbound, and the other checkpoint will be at Card Sound Road, also known as State Road 905.
Deputies said the only people who will be let through are residents, property owners and people performing essential work in the Florida Keys, such as delivery trucks and fuel tankers.
The changes to travel are being put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19, officials said.
There are a total of 14 cases of the virus in Monroe County as of 7 p.m., Thursday. Officials said most of the cases are considered to be travel-related.
Tourists were ordered out of the area this past weekend, and businesses have noticed a huge difference.
“It’s practically a ghost town for us,” Wahoo’s Bar and Grill employee Ashley Witt said. “I really just hope that we can get this done and over with as soon as possible, that everybody just does what we’re supposed to, so everybody can open up and get back into business.”
“We are open seven days a week, so we can pay the rent,” Barracuda Grill employee Romin Burdiez said.
It was a quiet Thursday night at Snook’s Bayside Restaurant in Key Largo.
“We’re going to stay open as long as we can,” Snook’s Bayside restaurant employee Fred Rivera said. “We went from doing great business, I mean, packing every table, to somebody wandering through every once in a while.”
Like other restaurants in the area, Snook’s has been forced to offer take-out only orders.
“I’ve got one guy in the kitchen and me running the whole restaurant,” Rivera said. “That’s usually impossible. This is unprecedented. I’ve never felt like this before, this kind of drop off. I mean, look around. I think everybody that’s here is here and everybody that’s not here is not here. I don’t really think that closing is going to affect us that much, because it’s already affected us.”
Rivera added that he feels the crisis on a personal level and hopes things get back to normal soon.
“My wife is a nurse,” he said. “She’s on the front line of this whole thing. Shut everything down, keep everybody home and let’s get through it and come back and have some fun.”
Authorities said if someone is a resident of the Florida Keys, they will need to show their ID to pass.
Healthcare workers, first responders and military members will also have to show their ID, officials said.
Those working in the Florida Keys must show the contract for that job or a letter from their employer that says they are doing work in Monroe County.
Authorities are anticipating heavy delays once the checkpoints are put into place.
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