Story at a glance
- Some national parks closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- As states begin to reopen, the parks have also begun to allow visitor access.
- Many Americans stuck inside under stay-at-home orders are eager to get outside.
Heading outdoors has struck many Americans as the perfect solution to being stuck indoors during the coronavirus pandemic. But as national parks reopen after closing to protect visitors from the spread of COVID-19, are they still following the guidelines?
“We checked the webcam at Old Faithful at about 3.30 pm yesterday,” Kristin Brengel, the senior vice-president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association, told The Guardian on May 19. “Not much physical distancing happening and not a single mask in sight.”
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Yellowstone National Park began a phased reopening on May 18, with limited services and access to the park through the South and East entrances. With travel limited to the park's lower loop, the Old Faithful geyser was a popular attraction for visitors over the weekend, including some that came from out of state, according to The Guardian.
Members of the White House, from President Trump to second lady Karen Pence, have encouraged Americans to visit the parks, suggesting that they would still be able to practice preventative measures during the pandemic. But others are still concerned over the risk of increased transmission with people gathering in closer proximity to one another.
Mark Segal, a Wyoming local, told The Guardian he noticed many out-of-state tags at the park and was concerned over the increased risk of infection.
“What if everyone that leaves here goes and gets a bite in Jackson?” he told The Guardian. “This is exactly what we’re afraid of.”
The National Park Service is asking visitors to wear face coverings in high-visitation areas and maintain social distancing, following state and local guidelines.
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