Checkpoints come down in Florida Keys as tourists return

Monroe County Sheriff deputies man a checkpoint on U.S. 1 leading into the Florida Keys on March 27, 2020 in Florida City, Florida. Monroe County administrators made the decision to prohibit tourists and only allow property owners and people who show

Checkpoints leading into the Florida Keys are coming down two months after being set up to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

The checkpoints that are being removed early Monday were put into place in March to keep tourists from entering the chain of islands in an effort to blunt the outbreak.

More than 18,750 cars coming from the mainland were turned away because drivers did not present the proper paperwork that showed they either worked or lived in the Florida Keys, said Kristen Livengood, a county spokeswoman.

Related: Florida Keys reopening to tourists June 1

With four deaths attributed to COVID-19, the Florida Keys has had about 110 coronavirus cases, and more than 20 of those are from a nursing home on Plantation Key, according to the Miami Herald.

“It’s been very effective in keeping the community safe, but the time has come,” Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said.

By contrast, neighboring Miami-Dade County to the north has had almost 18,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 700 deaths.

But officials are warning residents to keep up their vigilance as the Florida Keys reopens to visitors.

“As we ready to reopen, remember: when in public, stand 6 feet apart and wear a mask!" the Key West Police Department tweeted.