Arizona lawmaker presses for Grand Canyon closure amid coronavirus outbreak

Arizona lawmaker presses for Grand Canyon closure amid coronavirus outbreak
© Greg Nash

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is calling for the closure of the Grand Canyon to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying the National Park Service has blocked requests from both himself and Navajo Nation and county officials.

Grijalva told the Arizona Republic federal parks are still drawing “hundreds” of visitors even in the wake of federal guidance saying gatherings should be limited to 10 people. “It's not something we can mandate. But my preference is always just closing," he said.

“It's a public issue as well. The concession is closed. There's no amenities at the park and no guided tours. Nothing's going on,” he added. “At some point, you know, in deference to the health of the people that work there and the public itself ... it just becomes something where you're asking the staff to do too much."

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At least one hospitality worker at the iconic landmark has tested positive for the virus, according to the newspaper, but Grijalva, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said his requests, as well as those of Coconino County officials, the park’s chief and the Navajo Nation, have been blocked.

The agency’s website simply states "Precautions are being taken due to the novel (new) coronavirus” in an update posted last Friday.

Glen White, a spokesman for park concessionaire Delaware North, said the worker who tested positive lived in a dorm within the park and only worked one day over the past three weeks before guest services were suspended at Yavapai Lodge, the lodge where he worked. The man has been in isolation for the last several days.

"It’s time for a more serious federal response," Grijalva said. "Grand Canyon National Park is a federal facility and federal guidelines need to be enforced, whether it makes some government officials uncomfortable or not."

The Hill has reached out to the National Park Service for comment.