To combat the spread of coronavirus and encourage social distancing, many national parks are closing to the public or modifying their operations, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Although, thanks to their sizes, parks might seem somewhat safer than other public gathering places, they attract large numbers of visitors, which poses a health risk.

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News Release: Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are announcing modifications to operations at the request of local county health officers from Park County, WY, Park County, MT, Teton County, WY, and Gallatin County, MT. The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective immediately, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are closed to all park visitors until further notice. There will be no visitor access permitted to either park. State highways and/or roads that transcend park/state boundaries and facilities that support life safety and commerce will remain open. Both parks will cooperate on the implementation of the closures. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels. “The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail. “We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible." The parks encourage people to take advantage of various digital tools available to learn about Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on (nps.gov/coronavirus). Please check with (nps.gov/yell) and (nps.gov/grte) for specific details about park operations. Full release at: go.nps.gov/20013 #Covid_19 #CoronaVirus

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In lieu of visiting the parks, the NPS is offering some virtual alternatives like photo galleries, apps, videos, and virtual tours. These are obviously poor substitutes for the real thing, but they’ll just have to suffice to tide us over until the parks reopen.

The decision to close the parks comes shortly after President Trump waived all national park entrance fees — a move designed to make social distancing less painful by encouraging safe outdoor recreation. The gesture, however, triggered fear of crowds and risks for NPS visitors and employees. The UK made a similar reversal with the National Trust opting to close parklands, coast, countryside, and gardens shortly after offering free entry.

A list of the closed parks and their modified operations is available on the National Parks Services Public Health Update page.