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Florida Has Reopened to Travelers—but Should You Go?

By Michelle Baran

Aug 13, 2020

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The Florida Keys reopened to travelers in June.

Photo by Zhukova Valentyna/Shutterstock

The Florida Keys reopened to travelers in June.

The Florida Keys, Miami and Walt Disney World are all welcoming back travelers. But before you throw your weekender bag over your shoulder, read up on Florida’s latest coronavirus case numbers.

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In June, the Florida Keys and Miami announced that they were welcoming back visitors. Universal Orlando opened back up to the general public on June 5 (with limited capacity), and the Walt Disney World Resort reopened on July 11.

But this has not been a typical summer in Florida. After the state reopened following business closures that were put in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, Florida has experienced a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths. Travelers interested in heading to Florida should check with the Florida Department of Health to see what the latest case counts are—the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against traveling to areas where transmission levels are high.

In the Keys, the first phase of reopening requires that lodgings be limited to 50 percent of full capacity. Hotels and tourism establishments must follow disinfecting and social-distancing guidelines issued by the Florida Department of Health, the CDC, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and face masks are required for both tourists and hospitality industry workers. Officials did not say how long these measures would last. The majority of the beaches in the Keys are currently open, but beachgoers are being asked to remain in groups of 10 people or fewer.

In Miami, beaches, hotels, restaurants, museums, retail stores, attractions, salons, and city and county parks have been given the green light to reopen. Masks are required in the county inside commercial businesses and outdoors when social distancing of at least six feet is not possible. 

All beachgoers in Miami Beach are required to have a face mask on hand to show to local authorities when asked, and they must wear the masks if a distance of six feet cannot be established between groups who are not from the same household. Officials said they will mark areas on the sand to indicate six feet of distance between groups. Hotels have a long list of health and safety guidelines they need to follow in order to reopen.

Florida has 67 counties and each is taking a slightly different approach to reopening. It will be a process. Here is where things stand thus far.

Who is allowed to travel to Florida right now?

As of August 6, those traveling to Florida from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or Louisiana are no longer required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The quarantine orders had been put into place at the end of March by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

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As for international visitors, as per U.S. government restrictions, foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, Europe, the United Kingdom, or Ireland in the previous 14 days will be denied entry into Florida.

Are the roads to Florida open?

All of the roads and highways into Florida remain open.

Also of note for road-trippers: To reduce the risk of transmission for toll workers, tolls are being collected electronically on Florida’s Turnpike. When you come to a toll plaza, you don’t need to stop—you will be billed through “toll-by-plate”—a snapshot of your license plate will result in an invoice being sent via mail, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. There are also “exact coin lanes,” where there is no toll operator and you can submit exact payments in coins.

Are there flights available to Florida?

All of Florida’s major airports, including Miami International Airport, Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, and Orlando International Airport, remain open. While service has been reduced due to a downturn in demand, there are still plenty of flights operating to these hubs from throughout the United States, including on American, United, Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue.

Which businesses, hotels, and attractions are open in Florida?

As stated above, Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World reopened on June 5 and July 11, respectively. Universal Orlando reopened its CityWalk shopping area with limited hours on May 14, and Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs dining and shopping district partially reopened on May 20.

Hotels in Florida were never required by the state to close, but many were forced to temporarily close due to a demand nosedive or because of city or county restrictions. Now, many that closed are starting to reopen. Check with each individual property to see whether it is open or plans to reopen soon.

As of May 18, individual counties were able to request approval to begin allowing vacation rentals to operate anew (on March 27, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order barring vacation rentals in an effort to deter nonresidents who were fleeing to the state from locations that were experiencing larger coronavirus outbreaks). There are 67 counties in Florida, and as of August 13, 55 counties had been granted approval for vacation rental operations. They include Bay, Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Franklin, Gulf, Highlands, Jackson, Lafayette, Lake, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Monroe (which includes the Keys), Nassau, Okaloosa, Orange (which includes Orlando), Osceola, Pinellas, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, St. Johns, Wakulla, and Walton counties. A comprehensive and regularly updated list of which counties are allowing vacation rentals to operate is available on Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation site.

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Florida has also eased the restrictions on numerous businesses. In addition to delivery and take-out services, restaurants and dining establishments throughout the state are allowed to have outdoor seating when there are six feet between parties and parties consist of 10 or fewer people.

Retail stores, museums, libraries, gyms, and fitness centers have been allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity. Not long after numerous counties in Florida allowed bars to reopen and serve alcohol in June, alcohol consumption at bars was suspended as the state responded to its spike in coronavirus cases.

Are Florida beaches and parks open?

Numerous trails and areas of Everglades National Park reopened this month.

Most Florida beaches are open, and Visit Florida has a comprehensive county-by-county list that breaks down the status of the beaches in each county. For counties where the beaches are open, there are different rules and restrictions that are specific to that jurisdiction. Before visiting, read up on the regulations surrounding specific beach destinations so that you’re fully versed in what you will and won’t be able to do on the sand. For instance, some only permit walking, jogging, and riding along the beach, while others allow sunbathing, but with social-distancing measures or time restrictions in place.

Florida State Parks have begun to reopen for day use, albeit with limited hours, capacity, and amenities, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which recommends going to the site of each individual park for the fine print. Some national parks in Florida have also begun to reopen a portion of their recreational areas and trails, including the Everglades National Park, Big Cypress, Biscayne, and Dry Tortugas National Park.

Social distancing and safety in Florida

Just like anywhere in the country, Florida reminds residents and visitors that they should follow the CDC’s latest guidance about COVID-19 and what we can all do to minimize our risk and the risk to others, which includes frequent hand washing and social distancing.

Wearing face masks is not a requirement statewide, and each individual county has different requirements and recommendations regarding face masks, so you should double-check the requirements for wearing masks in the destination you are interested in visiting. The CDC recommends that we all wear face masks in public settings, in places where we cannot establish a distance of six feet between ourselves and others, and especially in areas of the United States with large numbers of coronavirus transmissions.

If you want to know the latest numbers for coronavirus cases and deaths in Florida, the state’s health department maintains updated counts on its website, along with other helpful information about Florida’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

This story originally appeared on May 20, 2020, and has been updated to include current information.

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