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The Washington Monument Was Shut Down After Secretary Bernhardt, Who Had Been “Giving Private, Nighttime Tours,” Tests Positive for Coronavirus

A recent internal Interior report revealed that over 2,000 Department of the Interior (DOI) employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and 17 have died. And while the pandemic continues to rage across the country, Secretary Bernhardt and his administration continue to put visitors and staff at risk through their irresponsible and unethical behavior at national parks.

Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, issued the following statement:

“Our hearts go out to all DOI employees and their families who have been impacted by this pandemic. We continue to be concerned about the health and safety of those still working in the field.

The numbers revealed in the internal DOI report are concerning, particularly because most national parks remain open in some capacity – and wearing protective face covering is not required. This is a risk to the health and safety of park staff, volunteers, and residents of gateway communities.

And when you have Secretary Bernhardt and his administration continuing to visit national parks, conducting private tours, and demanding special treatment, it is not just irresponsible; it’s dangerous.

We have repeatedly requested that the National Park Service (NPS) release the number of cases of COVID-19 that have occurred among NPS employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to a simple list of parks where cases are occurring. These requests, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, have gone unanswered and the NPS has failed to release any information. This information would help us to better understand how the NPS has been administering units in the National Park System during the pandemic, and the ramifications of those decisions.

We must place the health and safety of our NPS employees, volunteers, visitors, and members of gateway communities first. This pandemic is not slowing down, and the Trump administration continues to put everyone at risk through their lack of leadership and transparency and their reckless behavior.”