CDC to issue new guidelines on preventing coronavirus spread in state, national parks

(ATLANTA) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to issue new guidelines on Thursday aiming at preventing parks from becoming viral hotspots as the novel coronavirus continues to spread and Americans seek time outside as a break from staying home.

The National Park Service, as well as stay and local recreation departments, have closed some parks or areas of parks to protect visitors and staff from coming in close contact with one another — but in many national parks, outdoor spaces have remained open.

Vice President Mike Pence said that new guidance will be released by CDC as many fear that these areas — which have seen a surge of visitors in the last few weeks — could become breeding grounds for the coronavirus.

“It would be several weeks ago that our park service waived all entrance fees and we directed the CDC to provide us guidance for how people can still practice social distancing and common sense but be out of doors and enjoy our natural parks. We will be sharing our guidance with state park systems around the country and encouraging their support,” Pence said.

Despite instructions from federal, state, and local officials to stay at home and avoid crowds some parks have noted that people continue to visit parks in large numbers, gathering in parking lots, bathrooms, and popular spots despite guidelines to maintain a social distance from other people.

Officials have also raised concerns that even while outside, large crowds still pose a risk of increasing exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

“We are concerned that current visitation patterns are not meeting current CDC guidance on social distancing,” Zion National Park staff wrote on instagram.

“If you are coming to the park, please choose to visit areas that are not crowded to allow for adequate social distancing,” they said.

Advocates and former Park Service employees have criticized the administration’s decision to waive entrance fees and encourage people to visit parks, saying there should have been more direct guidance earlier to close parks or direct people to less popular areas to prevent crowding.

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