Under instruction from President Joe Biden, the National Park Service now requires all employees and visitors to wear face masks indoors, as well as outdoors when physical distancing is not possible. This comes as a reversal of policies implemented under former president Donald Trump. Yellowstone Tour Guides supports and will abide by and enforce the new regulations, and Superintendent Cam Sholly is seeking clarification regarding outdoor areas where social distancing is possible.
This announcement came as part of a broader order by the Biden administration to mandate face masks at federal properties, in federal buildings, at airports and on public transportation. Biden signed these executive orders in his first days of his presidency as part of his efforts to take immediate action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic still raging throughout the United States.
What to know
Here’s a quick overview of everything you need to know about this order and how it could potentially affect your visit to Yellowstone National Park (or any other national park you may wish to visit while this order is in effect):
- Face masks are now required at all National Park Service buildings and facilities, and even on outdoor lands managed by the service if it is impossible to physically distance. This means people on crowded trails or at overlooks should be prepared with face masks.
- The order applies to everyone in the park, from visitors to employees, contractors and anyone else on the grounds.
- There are other safety measures that will also be implemented at national park sites, including one-way trails, temporary closures and capacity limits. These measures will only be implemented if deemed necessary based on COVID-19 spread in the local area.
- Park rangers have the authority to issue citations as deemed appropriate for anyone they find violating the mask requirement. In some circumstances, mask-wearing violations could result in civil or criminal penalties, including fines.
- This order affects 423 total sites managed by NPS across the United States, and more than 85 million acres of land. This doesn’t just include outdoor parks, but also historic sites like the Lincoln Memorial and Independence Hall.
Under the previous administration, face masks were encouraged but not required at national park facilities, both indoor facilities and in areas that already had local or state mask mandates in place.
Currently there is no guidance as to when this order will be relaxed, so national park visitors should be prepared with face masks when visiting parks until they hear otherwise.
The good news is that you can still have a relatively mask-free experience at national parks. You are not required, for example, to wear masks at your camp site if you are only with the group you came with. When on trails that are not crowded, there is no need to wear masks. Most of the time before the busy season begins, you will not be in areas so crowded that it is impossible to keep six feet of distance from other visitors.To learn more about these mask rules at national parks and what you should know about planning a COVID-friendly Yellowstone excursion, contact the team at Yellowstone Tour Guides today.