The National Park Service now requires all visitors, employees, and contractors to wear a mask while inside all National Park Service buildings and when they are in crowded outdoor spaces. The mandate, effective immediately, applies to everyone regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status or community transmission levels.
The mandate shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that the National Park Service follows guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Earlier this week, the CDC changed its masking recommendations as officials grow more concerned about the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19. The CDC now urges everyone — regardless of their vaccination status — to resume wearing masks indoors in public areas and outdoors in crowded settings.
“Visitors to national parks are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world,” NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge said in a statement. “For this reason, as well as recognizing that the majority of the U.S. is currently in substantial or high transmission categories, we are implementing a service-wide mask requirement to ensure the safety of our staff and visitors alike.”
A Public Health Concern
Captain Maria Said, MD, an epidemiologist in the NPS Office of Public Health and a member of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, explains that being vaccinated is the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of COVID-19.
“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,” explains Captain Said. “This simple act of kindness allows us to be safe while we continue to enjoy the benefits of our national parks.”
Know Before You Go
The NPS already requires everyone — regardless of their vaccination status — to wear a mask while on public transportation. The new mandate, in addition to applying to all NPS buildings, requires everyone to wear a mask in crowded outdoor places such as narrow or busy trails, scenic overlooks, and trailheads.
Also, if you are planning a visit to a national park, keep in mind that while the mask mandate is in effect in all national parks, other requirements may vary from park to park. Be sure to check individual park websites for further requirements and closures. You can learn more about how the NPS is operating during the COVID-19 pandemic here.
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