The National Park Service announced last week that visitors are now required to wear face masks inside park buildings and outside when in areas and on trails that do not allow for proper social distancing.
The NPS announced this requirement for all employees, visitors, partners and contractors in a Feb. 2 news release. The release states that the new face mask requirements are being issued “to protect the health of those who live, work and visit our national parks and facilities.”
The new requirement is the result of a Jan. 20 executive order signed by newly elected President Joe Biden titled: “Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing.”
This executive order requires all federal employees and contractors as well as other individuals present in federal buildings and on federal lands to wear masks and adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
With the issuance of the executive order, wearing masks is now at a law on federal properties.
Mask wearing has been encouraged by the CDC and health experts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that first appeared in the United States early last year.
The NPS and its employees have encouraged the wearing of masks in buildings and crowded areas. However, as of Feb. 2, wearing a face mask is no longer encouraged but required.
Southern Utah’s national parks have experienced both record high and low visitation records amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus surfaced in the United States, many parks restricted visitation or shut down all together.
By fall, all the parks in Utah were once again open, but with varied levels of restrictions and accessible areas. These months proved to be extremely busy at parks such as Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park that both showed record visitation numbers in the month of September.
Winter closures and restrictions have resulted in a decrease in visitors, but with numbers still high for the season. The large volume of visitors at the parks and limited access to trails and certain services increases the difficulty to remain properly socially distanced even outside.
Due to this, the mask mandate extends to outdoor trails as expressed by the press release.
Individuals are encouraged by the NPS to continue utilizing the national parks and their services. Those interested in planning a trip are encouraged to review the individual park’s website for up-to-date information, regulations and restrictions.
“Getting outside and enjoying our public lands is essential to improving mental and physical health,” NPS Public Health Director Captain Sara Newman said. “But we all need to work together to recreate responsibly.”