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National Park Service renews mask mandate for all visitors

WASHINGTON — The National Park Service reinstated on Monday a mask mandate for all visitors, workers and volunteers at NPS buildings and crowded outdoor areas, regardless of vaccination status. That includes the Gateway Arch, which is a national park.

In May, the agency said it would require only unvaccinated people to wear masks. Recently, as the Delta variant of the coronavirus has led to a spike in cases throughout the country, the NPS also required people from areas of high transmission to mask up, consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

Park Service sites in areas of high transmission also adopted their own mask mandates.

The new universal masking rule marks a return to the NPS policy from February to May.

The agency announced the change in policy Monday afternoon, and said it was effective immediately and would remain in place “until further notice.”

“Visitors to national parks are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world,” NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge said in a statement. “Because of this, and recognizing that the majority of the United States is currently in substantial or high transmission categories, we are implementing a service-wide mask requirement to ensure our staff and visitors’ safety.”

Some state and local governments have returned to mandating masks in recent weeks as a response to delta, a more contagious and dangerous strain of the coronavirus.

Research shows that fully vaccinated people are less likely to get seriously ill, but can still pass the virus to others. About 59% of Americans over 12 are fully vaccinated, while nearly 70% have received at least one dose, according to the CDC.

This article by Jacob Fischler is published by permission of The Missouri Independent.

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