March 25, 2020

*PUBLISHING UPDATE: Information concerning restricted southbound traffic on U.S. 1 was not available at the time of publication. For updated information on the implementation of southbound traffic stops please read our news update U.S. 1 to close to visitors, another virus case reported.

The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County on Tuesday received a lab report of positive of coronavirus, or COVID-19, in a 52-year-old female Key West resident, in which travel is not associated with the infection. This case is the first locally transmitted case and it is currently under investigation, Department of Health spokeswoman Alison Kerr said.

Also on Tuesday, Florida Keys government officials said they have no plans to shut down the chain of islands to outside vehicle traffic via U.S. 1.

The individual identified Tuesday is isolated at her home and will continue to remain isolated until cleared by the Health Department. She is expected to make a full recovery. Monroe County has three positive cases in total: two cases in Key West and one in Ocean Reef.

As of Tuesday, none of the Keys people who contracted the virus have had to be hospitalized, Kerr said.

A fourth case of the coronavirus being attributed to the Florida Keys is actually a Miami-Dade County person who used an identification card with a former Tavenier address on it, according to the Florida Department of Health.

As of Tuesday, officials could confirm at least 48 people in the Keys had been tested. More could have been tested through a private laboratory, but the results had yet to make their way to the Health Department.

Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers told reporters Tuesday that county government can’t shutdown U.S. 1 to southbound traffic, as at least 30% of first responders working in the Keys live in Miami-Dade County and 60% of homeowners in the Keys are second homeowners and local governments can’t prohibit them from coming to their Keys homes.

“We can’t legally say you can’t enjoy or inhabit your home,” Carruthers said.

Keys residents also need to be able to free come and go out of the Keys for doctor appointments and other necessary errands on the mainland, Carruthers said.

Carruthers also said that the Upper Keys does not have a Home Depot and many people travel to Miami-Dade County to shop at that store.

In addition, supply trucks still need to come and go out of the Keys, she said.

On Monday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order, directing all persons whose point of departure originates from outside of Florida in an area with substantial community spread, which includes Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, and entering the state through airports to isolate or quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into the Florida or the duration of the person’s presence in the state, whichever is shorter.

Three people coming into Key West International Airport from the New York area on Tuesday morning were told of the news, Monroe County Airports Director Richard Strickland said.

The number of passengers flying into Key West has steadily declined since last week, Strickland said. In general four to 12 people have flown into Key West, while 60 to 76 people have flown out, he said.

tohara@keysnews.com