FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 3/16/20
MEDIA CONTACT: Emily Thompson;
Coalition Calls for Closures at National Parks
In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance that calls for a nationwide halt to gatherings of 50 people or more. In addition, Americans are being asked to practice social distancing and refrain from unnecessary social interaction.
However, most units of the National Park System remain open and should not be operating under a “business as usual” mentality, says Phil Francis, chair of The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.
“National parks welcome visitors from around the world. Many National Park Service (NPS) employees interact with members of the public daily. These employees should not be exempt from recommendations made by the CDC. Further, to suggest to the public that gathering at national park sites is acceptable when gathering at restaurants, theaters, libraries, and other public spaces is no longer safe is irresponsible to the visiting public and employees.
The National Park Service should close all facilities that require employees and/or members of the public to be in close proximity and in confined spaces. In addition, park superintendents should be authorized to close any other facilities, such as restrooms, that they don’t have the ability to sanitize properly.
NPS employees that are not essential to ensuring the safety of resources or visitors should practice social distancing and stay home wherever possible.
We fully recognize that calling for a nationwide closure of national park sites is unusual. We also recognize the tremendous disruption such an action will cause to NPS partners, concessioners and the public. But these are unprecedented times that call for unprecedented measures.
Decisions made about the health and safety of our federal workforce should not be political in nature. They should be made in the best interest of the health and well-being of our nation, particularly the most vulnerable. We must take care of our federal employees and their families.”