National parks will be reopening soon after being closed for weeks to contain the spread of coronavirus, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday.
"Thanks to our significant progress against the invisible enemy, I'm pleased to announce that in line with my administration’s guidelines for opening up America again, we will begin to reopen our national parks and public lands for the American people to enjoy,” Trump said during an Earth Day ceremony on the White House lawn. “That’s going to be very exciting; we have a lot of land to open up, too. People are going to be very happy.”
Trump's announcement comes as states begin to relax restrictions that forced the closures of parks and other businesses that were considered nonessential during the coronavirus pandemic.
The president didn't discuss a timeline or plan for reopening the parks. It's also unclear what will happen to parks in states that have not relaxed their stay-at-home orders yet.
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Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tweeted Wednesday that he was committed to working with the governors and public health officials "to gradually reopen our National Parks in a safe manner for the American people to once again enjoy."
The National Park Service has closed many of its parks, including Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, in the recent weeks in an effort to protect employees and visitors from the coronavirus. Some parks remained open with limited use of outdoor spaces.
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The Trump administration's plan to reopen parks has received criticism from some groups including The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks.
“We understand that the president is eager to reopen our national parks and we share that sentiment,” coalition chairman Phil Francis said in a statement. “However, parks should not open before the safety of National Park Service employees, concessionaires, volunteers and other partners, including those in gateway communities, can be ensured. And not before we have the necessary capacity to protect our resources. This includes adequate staff, personal protective equipment, and employee training.”
Reopening the parks doesn't mean that people should give up their social-distancing habits while outdoors.
Medical experts recommend only doing outdoor activities with the people in your household and staying six feet away from neighbors or others in public areas.
Coronavirus is highly contagious, can live in the air for hours and on some surfaces for up to three days, and can be spread easily by droplets from someone's cough,
"Everything you can do to keep it from spreading further really is going to save lives," said Dr. Sean O’Leary, of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases.
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