U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said Friday that the nation’s national parks would still require visitors to wear face masks.
Haaland was asked at a White House press briefing if there were any reason parks were still operating at a “reduced capacity” as more Americans are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, and said she did not want to speak too hastily on the issue.
“First of all, I’ll say: we are taking every possible precaution to make sure that we are keeping people safe. I don’t ever want to jump the gun on this,” she said.
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“We know [there are] a lot of vaccinations that are happening. Yes, our country is safer since President Biden has been in office,” she added. “We’re just not quite there yet.”
Haaland said the situation would be continually monitored.
“We want everyone to keep their masks on, to social distance,” she noted. “We can look into it and get back to you.”
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told the “Today” show on Thursday that the agency is “looking at” whether people should continue to wear masks outdoors to prevent transmission of the virus.
“Now we are really trying to scale up vaccination, we have this complex message that we still have hot spots in this country … We will be looking at the outdoor masking question, but it’s also in the context of the fact that we still have people who are dying of COVID,” she said.
In February, the National Park Service implemented a mask mandate for employees, visitors, partners and contractors across all parks and federal buildings.
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“Working with public health officials and following the latest science and guidance, we can make national parks safer for employees, visitors and partners,” National Parks Service Deputy Director Shawn Benge said in a release detailing the move. “We will continue to evaluate operations and make appropriate modifications to visitor services as needed.”
Capacity limits and additional public health measures are also in place across the National Park System and the agency recommends parkgoers check with individual parks for specific details about modifications to park operations.
“Modifications to park operations are adjusted on a unit-by-unit basis as park managers monitor local conditions and evaluate each facility function and service with the support of public health professionals. Most of the 423 units of the National Park System are available to visitors, however, some facilities and services may be limited,” the agency wrote on their website.