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Key West closes attractions while Clearwater parties on

March 17, 2020 - 5:46 AM

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Three tourist attractions in Key West are being shut down to the public on Tuesday as officials across Florida try to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.

Many beaches in Florida, including Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale Beach and Hollywood Beach, have closed to spring break crowds. But some have stayed open: Beaches in Clearwater, on Florida's Gulf Coast, were packed with spring breakers on Monday afternoon.

The Southernmost Point, Smathers Beach and the sunset celebration at Mallory Square, where crowds gather nightly to watch the sunset, will close starting Tuesday even though no one in the Florida Keys has tested positive for COVID-19, City Manager Greg Veliz said.

“We understand that this creates a burden on both our residents and our visitors,” Veliz told the Miami Herald. He said additional closures could be on the way. “It’s vital that we work together to protect public safety during this health emergency.

The City of Miami tweeted that anti-social is the new social. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, told media outlets he plans to order all restaurants in the city to close their dining rooms and only offer takeout and delivery services. A final decision was expected on Tuesday, with the bans going into effect Wednesday morning.

The decisions came after President Donald Trump asked Americans on Monday to limit travel, avoid crowds of 10 or more people and to stay out of restaurants for the next 15 days in an effort to stop the virus.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a news conference Monday that his staff is reviewing the new federal guidelines, but he wasn't ready to order across-the-board closures of restaurants and bars.

Florida also unveiled a new online dashboard that provides the public with a clearer picture of where the virus has hit. The COVID-19 surveillance dashboard provides a colour-coded map that shows the intensity of infections across the state. It showed 142 positive cases and four deaths as of Tuesday morning.

Florida — along with Arizona and Illinois — decided to proceed with Tuesday's presidential primary election. Ohio, Georgia and Louisiana delayed their primaries, which had been set for Tuesday.

“Based on the best information that we have, we are confident that voters in Florida can safely and securely go to the polls and cast their ballots," Secretary of State Laurel Lee said Monday.

Almost 2 million Floridians voted early.

The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people, but older adults and those with existing health problems can develop severe complications, including pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Some communities, including Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, also ordered restaurants to close early to help with crowd control.

On Monday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he is limiting crowd capacity of recreational and social gatherings and establishments to 50 people. This includes shopping malls, restaurants, bars, churches and movie theatres. Office buildings, manufacturing plants, grocery stores and many other businesses are exempt from the limit.


Calvan reported from Tallahassee.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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News from © The Associated Press, 2020
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