HomeOutdoorsNational Park Service Announces New Mask Policy That Reflects CDC Guidelines

National Park Service Announces New Mask Policy That Reflects CDC Guidelines

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by DEA / W. BUSS/De Agostini via Getty Images)

As COVID-19 evolves and changes, so do mask policies, as laid down by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Park Service has slightly altered their mask policy, in compliance with the CDC. The NPS recently announced that they were easing up on mask mandates in areas where there are lower COVID case numbers.

At a Glance

  • The National Park Service is changing their mask policies for low and medium risk areas
  • The CDC has altered how they track COVID-19 cases, focusing on how hospitals are affected instead of number of positive tests
  • Masks are still required indoors in parks that fall in high risk areas, and on public transportation

How the National Park Service Mask Policy Has Changed

The CDC has revised its policies for areas of the US where COVID is easing up; now, 70 percent of the population resides in counties that are low or medium risk to hospitals. These people don’t have to wear masks anymore. The new reporting system focuses on what’s happening in hospitals, instead of infection rates and test results. About 37 percent of remaining counties are still high risk, and residents, especially school-age children, should continue to wear masks.

According to the CDC, immunity is starting to kick in, from both infection and vaccines. So, while we are still very much in COVID times, the risk of severe infection has lowered. Of the new policies, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a briefing, “We want to make sure our hospitals are OK and people are not coming in with severe disease. … Anyone can go to the CDC website, find out the volume of disease in their community and make that decision.”

As for the National Parks Service, they still require masks indoors and on public transit. But, in the outdoor areas of low-risk parks, guests are not mandated to wear masks. In parks that fall in high-risk areas, masks are still required indoors.

NPS Director Chuck Sams said in a briefing that guests coming to the parks should always plan ahead. “As mask requirements evolve in parks,” he said, “we want everyone to check the park website before heading out so that you know what to expect when you get there.

CDC Director Says ‘Too Much Optimism’ Around Vaccines

The CDC delivered 550 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines around the country within the first year of the pandemic, and director Rochelle Walensky has previously praised the “extraordinary” efforts it took to get that done. She does, however, also admit that the “optimism” surrounding the vaccines ability to end the pandemic was somewhat premature.

“Many of us wanted to say, ‘OK, this is our ticket out. Yeah, we’re done,'” Walensky shared at the University of Washington. “So, I think we had perhaps too little caution and too much optimism for some good things that came our way. I think all of us wanted this to be done.”

Walensky spoke in the name of science, claiming that science is sometimes “gray” and that things are “not always immediate.” She continued, “Sometimes, it takes months or years to actually find out the answer. But you have to make decisions in a pandemic before you have that answer.”