SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah became the latest park to close its gates to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The ongoing flow of visitors to the park noted for its spire-shaped red rock formations known as hoodoos made it difficult to maintain proper social distancing, park Superintendent Linda Mazzu said Monday night. She made the decision with the backing of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Garfield County commissioners, her news release said.
Capitol Reef National Park remains the last of Utah’s five national parks still open, but the its scenic drive and campgrounds are closed. Zion, Arches and Canyonlands national parks are already closed after they heeded requests from local government and health officials.
In mid-March, Bernhardt announced he would waive entrance fees to make it easier for people to enjoy outdoor spaces while authorizing park superintendents to make their own decisions about what’s needed to adhere to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many of America’s most popular parks have closed, including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains and Glacier.
Sparsely populated Garfield County, where Bryce Canyon National Park is located, had one reported case of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to figures from the Southwest Utah Public Health Department.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
In other developments:
— The number of known cases in Utah increased to about 1,740, but there were no new deaths in Tuesday’s updated tally released by state health officials. The state had recorded 13 deaths so far.
— Gov. Gary Herbert wore a face covering to his daily briefing Tuesday in recognition of guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He pulled it off once he started talking. He was also wearing a white ribbon to honor health care workers.
— Herbert urged people not to make plans to travel or gather in groups for the upcoming Easter weekend and predicted rules could be loosened in a couple of weeks if everyone follows guidelines. Herbert, a Republican, has issued a voluntary stay-home directive that does not carry penalties if broken. Utah is one of nine states without a statewide stay-at-home order, although many of the most populated counties have issued such directives.
“This is a sacrifice, I understand. It’s hard, particularly for some of the young people that are on spring break time and want to gather,” Herbert said. “But you can’t do it. You should’t do it, If we all cooperate in this effort over the next couple of weeks we can get ahead of this and start loosening things up.”
This story has been corrected to show that Garfield County has one reported COVID-19 case, not zero.