National Parks Requiring Masks For All Visitors Again

As of this week, the National Park Service is requiring everyone – regardless of vaccination status – to wear masks in national park facilities, public transport systems and in crowded outside areas.

Denise Germann is with Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. She said that means masks are needed anywhere there’s a tight crowd.

“It’s any place that you can’t adequately social distance,” she said. “In Grand Teton, that might be locations like the Jenny Lake shuttle boat area….maybe some of the overlooks.”

So far, Germann said most visitors at her park are complying. Yellowstone National Park had already started requiring masks late last month.

Maria Burks is with the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, a group of current and former park service employees. She’s glad the mask mandate is in place, because there are so many visitors.

“They come in with differing health situations, differing vaccination status,” she said. “And the visitor centers are crowded, the trailheads are crowded. So I think, frankly, instituting a mask mandate again was a very prudent and appropriate thing to do.”

Burks said the mask mandate will require some self-enforcement from visitors, but park rangers will likely remind visitors in crowded areas to put their masks on.

“They’re doing that for everyone’s health and safety, for everyone’s benefit,” she said. “I think flexibility is going to be important, because as time goes by and as we see this virus morph into various variants, there are going to have to be other changes and other adjustments, and everyone is simply going to have to be patient and use good common sense.”

The National Park Service said the new mask mandate will be in effect until further notice.

“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,” Capt. Maria Said, a NPS epidemiologist, said in a statement.

“This simple act of kindness allows us to be safe while we continue to enjoy the benefits of our national parks.”

Increasing COVID-19 infections have also prompted New Mexico’s governor to issue a new statewide mask mandate. Nevada’s governor said people don’t have to wear a mask in large gatherings where vaccines are required.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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