Deadly Coronavirus Concerns Have National Parks Being Cautious In Planning Reopenings

Overarching concerns for the health of staff, concession workers, and visitors are complicating the reopening of national park sites shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic. Business won’t return to normal quickly or uniformly, with many parks confronting a unique set of issues they must resolve before they can welcome the public’s return.

Exactly when individual parks will reopen is unknown, with some units of the National Park System already saying they’ll be closed into late June, and others saying they might try staggered openings before summer officially arrives.

Seasonal workforces, thousands of individuals strong, normally are getting their positions for the summer season finalized now. But bringing workers in from not just across the country but possibly from throughout the world and housing them in dormitory settings is a potentially deadly proposition.

“… we cannot predict the exact burden of disease that our workforce and parks will see as the COVID-19 pandemic runs its course, but we can say with absolute certainty that leaving our parks open to the public when social distancing is not being practiced, onboarding employees originating from throughout the country and world, and permitting significant shared housing environments will result in a significantly greater burden of disease and death than if we had taken the proactive measure to continue to close these parks and/or limit operations,” one NPS manager said.

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