After months of mandated quarantine, millions of Americans seek ways to enjoy the summer months in the great outdoors. While traveling domestically and by car or RV offers a safer method for vacation, many people are thinking alike, resulting in overpopulated areas. Specifically, National Parks have seen higher numbers of visitors this summer than ever before.
With a deceivingly slow start to the season, Yellowstone National Park, among others, is managing an influx of cars and people, largely exceeding last year’s count for the same period of time. While business is a welcome relief for many small, seasonal towns, it is accompanied by the concern for visitors spreading the virus in local and rural communities. Terese Petcoff, executive director of Gardiner’s Chamber of Commerce, commented on the spike in tourism in the small town situated in Paradise Valley, Montana stating, “It’s a little concerning. We only have a couple more months to make it through, so I think we’re all kind of holding our breath and just hoping community spread doesn’t happen.”
At this point, only two employees at Yellowstone and three visitors have tested positive for COVID-19. While these numbers are low, it does not mean the virus could be going undetected and spreading. Local health officials at Yosemite National Park discovered, despite there being no reported cases, the virus in the park’s sewage. This leaves many concerned and believing that groups of tourists visiting their parks may have been infected.
With the spike in tourism alongside the resurgence of the coronavirus, the National Park Service is taking as many precautions as possible. Requiring masks, encouraging social distancing, closing certain road access, limiting crowding, and running at half capacity is among the efforts being made to continue providing safe access to these beautiful areas.