Sunday, March 7, 2021

National Parks Service begins COVID-19 mask mandate on lands, federal buildings

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Protective face masks are now a requirement for entry into a national park.

The National Park Service announced its new mandate in a press release on Tuesday, which notes that the PPE requirement is in compliance with President Joe Biden’s executive action that states masks must be worn on federal property, including parks and buildings.

Mask wear is required for visitors, park employees, partners and contractors due to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the U.S., more than 26.3 million Americans have been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to data from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard.

For this reason, face masks must be worn on lands managed by the National Park Service when social distancing cannot be maintained. This includes “narrow or busy trails, overlooks and historic homes,” according to the release.

“Wearing a mask around others, physical distancing, and washing your hands are the simplest and most effective public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” said NPS Office of Public Health Director Captain Sara Newman, in the agency’s press release. “Getting outside and enjoying our public lands is essential to improving mental and physical health, but we all need to work together to recreate responsibly.”

Additionally, the National Park Service is implementing capacity limits on one-way trails as a coronavirus-related health and safety measure. Temporary closures can be applied in response to local conditions.

Each national park should have operation details on their dedicated pages on nps.gov or social media pages. The National Park Service advises visitors to check these platforms before arriving at a park.

For example, Yosemite National Park in California will begin requiring reservations from visitors starting on Monday, Feb. 8, due to the state’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases.

These health-focused updates to the National Park Service aim to protect the people who live, work and visit its parks or facilities. The agency employs more than 20,000 people throughout its 423 national parks.

Moreover, on-duty park rangers will reportedly uphold the mask and distancing requirements.

“Working with public health officials and following the latest science and guidance, we can make national parks safer for employees, visitors and partners,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge, in a statement. “We will continue to evaluate operations and make appropriate modifications to visitor services as needed.”

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