Iconic national parks close over coronavirus concerns

Iconic national parks close over coronavirus concerns
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Some of the country's most iconic national parks closed Tuesday amid growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The National Park Service (NPS) closed Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Great Smoky Mountains on Tuesday, marking the latest in a series of closures around the country.

“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in a joint statement.

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Among the other monuments and parks that have closed in recent weeks are Yosemite National Park, the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton are closed until further notice in order to implement the latest health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NPS says.

A separate statement on the Great Smoky Mountains closure said that it would be closed until April 6 to "support regional COVID-19 prevention efforts."

The new closures come just a week after NPS said it would waive fees at parks that were remaining open.

“Our vast public lands that are overseen by the department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing,” said Secretary David Bernhardt of the Interior Department, which oversees NPS, in a statement on the fee waiver.

The agency told The Hill in a statement on Tuesday that decisions about whether to change park operations are "being made on a park-by-park basis by the respective superintendent, using the most current guidance from state and local health authorities, in support of the CDC's effort to promote social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus."

It noted that 100 of the 419 units of the NPS are either closed or not allowing visitors. 

—Updated at 6:18 p.m.