Story at a glance
- Some areas of national parks remain open as public health officials recommend social distancing to stop the spread of coronavirus.
- The NPS announced it will suspend entrance fees to its parks until further notice.
- Outdoor spaces where it is possible to adhere to public health guidance will remain open, said the agency.
The National Park Service (NPS) is temporarily suspending all entrance fees to its parks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible National Parks," said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt in a press release. "Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing."
Areas of national parks where it is possible to adhere to public health guidance remain open to the public, including some roadways, beaches, campgrounds and trails, but many other facilities are closed, including visitor centers. The NPS is referring to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asking those who are sick to stay home and high-risk populations to take extra caution if visiting the parks.
Public health officials are recommending against gatherings of 10 or more people for at least the next two weeks and continue to push social distancing as a means of stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus. The CDC website defines social distancing as maintaining a distance of about 6 feet from others, when possible.
The agency said they are coordinating with the CDC, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state and local public health authorities to stay up to date with the latest public health guidelines.
“The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is the priority of the National Park Service,” Bernhardt said in a release. “Park superintendents are empowered to modify their operations, including closing facilities and cancelling programs, to address the spread of the coronavirus.”