National Park Service Mandates Masks Indoors and in Crowds

National Park Service Mandates Masks Indoors and In Crowds

Written by on August 18, 2021

Once again, visitors to any National Park Service site will need to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces as more people get infected with COVID-19.

Courtesy National Park Service

In the interest of public health and safety, the National Park Service is returning to an unpopular policy. For the discernible future, N.P.S. enthusiasts will need to mask up.

A statement announcing the new policy was released by the N.P.S. on Monday, August 16.

WASHINGTON – Following the latest science and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Park Service (NPS) is immediately requiring visitors, employees, and contractors to wear a mask inside all NPS buildings and in crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status or community transmission levels.

“Visitors to national parks are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world. Because of this, and recognizing that the majority of the United States is currently in substantial or high transmission categories, we are implementing a service-wide mask requirement to ensure our staff and visitors’ safety,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge.

This requirement will be in effect until further notice and applies to all NPS buildings and public transportation systems. It also applies to outdoor spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as narrow or busy trails and overlooks.

“Being vaccinated is the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of the coronavirus. Masking, in addition to being vaccinated will help prevent the spread of new variants and protect those who are more at risk of severe disease. This simple act of kindness allows us to be safe while we continue to enjoy the benefits of our national parks,” said Capt. Maria Said, MD, an epidemiologist in the NPS Office of Public Health and a member of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Individuals looking to get a COVID-19 vaccine can visit to find a location close to them and make an appointment. Individuals can also text their ZIP code to 438829 and get a text with the closest COVID-19 vaccine location.

For one N.P.S. site, this isn’t news – Yellowstone National Park has mandated masks indoors since the end of July.

Yellowstone opened for its summer season with minimal COVID-19 precautions. In May 2021, masks were only required in the park’s visitor centers and stores.

But in the midst of its busiest summer in history, Yellowstone officials decided masks were needed. So on July 30, the park announced masks would be required indoors and on all public and commercial vehicles.

COVID-19 is doing little to deter visitors this year. Yellowstone recorded historically high visitation in April, May, and June. By the end of June, the park had recorded nearly 1.6 million visits. July was the first month in Yellowstone’s history to have over 1 million recreation visits.

However, the new N.P.S. policy is taking mask requirements even further. Under its purview, Yellowstone visitors must wear masks on crowded boardwalks, like those at Old Faithful and the Norris Geyser Basin.

There’s no word on when the National Park Service will lift this mandate. But, more than likely, things won’t change until the spread of the Delta variant is under control.

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