Yellowstone becomes fourth park to bring back face masks… as cases rise in three out of five states
Fears are growing that Americans will need to wear face masks when going on vacation this summer despite Covid deaths at less than a third of last summer’s peak.
The liners were abandoned across much of the country in April when a judge overturned requirements for them to still be used on public transport.
But with cases on the rise in three out of five U.S. states amid the arrival of another Omicron variant, national parks are starting to dust off their mask mandates again.
Yellowstone became the fourth to reimpose the requirement yesterday for anyone over the age of two, including vaccinated people, applying to indoor areas – including ticket offices, cafes and restaurants. Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Grand Teton brought back their mandates last month.
An expert told DailyMail.com today that face masks were ‘still needed’ because too few Americans were being vaccinated against the virus and to avoid ‘increases’ in staff absences if many people caught the virus.
The United States is currently recording around 330 Covid deaths per day, well below the tally of 1,000 every 24 hours recorded at the height of the summer epidemic last August. Cases are rising in 36 states compared to the same period two weeks ago.
Yellowstone said it had brought back face masks “in accordance with CDC guidelines,” warning that they were now required in “all indoor common areas, regardless of vaccination status.”
US national parks are following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) community-level transmission measures to determine what rules to impose.
This means that if a county reaches the “high” threshold – when more than 10 Covid admissions per 100,000 people are recorded daily – face masks will again be required.
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Grand Teton was the first national park to bring back face masks for indoor spaces on June 13, followed by Yosemite on June 23 and the Grand Canyon on June 30.
Dr. Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health in New York, warned that parks could also start cutting ticket sales and restaurant seating to control the virus.
But he added that was unlikely to happen as there was “little appetite” for further restrictions.
Asked if face masks were still needed in national parks, he told DailyMail.com: ‘I think it’s still needed for indoor spaces.
“We are at a place where transmission is high even according to official counts, although it is probably much higher.
“If you take into account that the official counts really under-represent the scale of the problem, and that this is still a time when there are a lot of people who are not vaccinated … that means that when it happens When it comes to places and public places where people need to go like hospitals or national parks, we need to provide everyone with the security that comes with masking.
Nash has already received three doses of the Covid vaccine and still wears face masks when he goes to grocery stores and on public transport.
He told DailyMail.com he has no plans to cancel summer vacation this year and plans to visit parks around New York State and Connecticut to make hiking.
Of the ten most visited national parks in America, four currently require face masks.
Yellowstone straddles five counties, three of which are currently “high” Covid transmission areas.
Teton County – where Grand Teton National Park is located – has the highest Covid infection rate in Wyoming with 460 cases per 100,000 people recorded. Its Covid admission rate is 17 patients per 100,000 inhabitants.
In Mariposa County, California – home of Yosemite – the infection rate is 465 per 100,000, while the hospitalization rate is 14.8.
And in Coconino County, Arizona – where Grand Canyon National Park is located – the Covid rate is 242 cases per 100,000, while the hospitalization rate is 10.4.
The other six parks currently say face masks are optional for visitors to wear in indoor spaces. But Zion National Park spans areas that are now at a “moderate” Covid alert level.
It comes as US Covid cases begin to stagnate with 110,000 infections recorded each day on average, barely a change from the same period last week.
But there are growing fears that the more transmissible variants of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 – which are now dominant across the country – could trigger another wave of infections.
There are around 330 virus deaths recorded daily, barely a change from last Wednesday’s 376 every 24 hours.
Across all states, 36 are now seeing a gradual increase in Covid infections. Utah (106% more than two weeks ago), Oklahoma (91%) and Minnesota (90%) recorded the largest increases.
At the other end of the scale, cases are falling fastest in Connecticut (down 31%), Nevada (down 24%) and Michigan (also down 24%).