If you’re visiting a national park, make sure you pack a mask.
The National Park Service (NPS) announced Monday that visitors and employees must now wear masks inside all National Park Service buildings and in crowded outdoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission levels, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The requirement follows the latest science and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to the NPS.
“Visitors to national parks are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world,” said Shawn Benge, deputy director for the National Park Service, in a statement. “Because of this, and recognizing that the majority of the United States is currently in substantial or high transmission categories, we are implementing a service-wide mask requirement to ensure our staff and visitors’ safety.
Masks must be worn in all buildings, public transportation systems, and in outdoor spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as on overlooks and narrow, busy trails, NPS wrote.
“Being vaccinated is the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of the coronavirus,” Maria Said, an epidemiologist in the NPS office of public health and a member of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, said in a statement. “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. This simple act of kindness allows us to be safe while we continue to enjoy the benefits of our national parks.”
The National Park Service had 237 million visitors last year, a decrease of 28 percent due to the pandemic. The system includes 423 sites, including 63 national parks. Maine’s Acadia National Park was among the 10 most visited national parks in 2020, ranking No. 8 with 2.7 million visitors. It is the only national park in New England.
The Cape Cod National Seashore ranked No. 9 among the top 10 most visited National Park Service sites in 2020, with 4.1 million visitors. It is one of 10 national seashores managed by the service.
There are three more fee free days at national parks this year. They will take place on Aug. 25 to celebrate the birthday of the National Park Service, Sept. 25 for National Public Lands Day, and Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.
The mask requirement will be in effect until further notice.
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