The Grand Canyon, one of America’s greatest and most popular National Parks, is now closed.
The surprising news – surely the park is large enough to maintain the social distancing guidelines – came Wednesday in a press release after the National Park Service received a request to close the Canyon from
Coconino County, Arizona, health officials.
“The National Park Service (NPS) received a letter today from the Health and Human Services Director and Chief Health Officer for Coconino County recommending the full closure of Grand Canyon National Park. Upon receiving this request from the local health department, acting Superintendent Mary Risser, with the support of the NPS Deputy Director, Operations, David Vela and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, made the decision to immediately close the park until further notice,” the NPS said in a statement.
The park is closed until further notice. Earlier this week, a food service employee at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim’s became the first identified case of the virus in that area.
“The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service will continue to follow the guidance of state and local health officials in making determinations about our operations,” department Secretary David Bernhardt said in the NPS press release. “As soon as we received the letter from the Health and Human Services Director and Chief Health Officer for Coconino County recommending the closure of Grand Canyon National Park, we closed the park.”
According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, the South Rim is home to more than 2,500 residents from the Grand Canyon Village inside the park and the neighboring Town of Tusayan and Valle, several miles outside the park. In recent weeks, several residents called for the park’s closure to protect themselves from potential exposure to COVID-19 and a shortage of already limited supplies.
Facilities inside the park have slowly been closing the last two weeks. There are more than 1,400 cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and 29 known deaths by Wednesday morning, the paper reported.
“The health and safety of park visitors, employees, residents, volunteers, and partners at Grand Canyon National Park is the Service’s number one priority. The NPS has consistently assessed its park units and made modifications to its operations in accordance with CDC, state and local public health guidance, and the NPS will continue to follow the guidance of public health officials in making determinations about our operations to address this pandemic,” the NPS said. “The NPS encourages people to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Grand Canyon National Park, including: The NPS encourages people to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Grand Canyon National Park, including: webcams, virtual tours, photo galleries, mobile app, videos, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
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