The Grand Canyon National Park, last major site to remain open during coronavirus pandemic, was reportedly closed to the visitors with immediate effect as of April 1. The Arizona landmark, otherwise visited by millions, was shuttered in accordance with the decision of the park’s superintendent and the director of the National Park Service, as directed by the local officials and members of Congress.
The closure comes after reports of pressure and umpteen warnings issued by county officials and the Navajo Native American leaders to National Park Service (NPS), as per the reports. The assembly of crowd had continued in the park despite the enforcement of social distance measures due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) disease spread. Violators swarmed the natural wonder elevating the risk of community spread.
NPS said in a statement that the health and safety of park visitors, employees, residents, volunteers, and partners at Grand Canyon National Park is the Service's number one priority. And therefore, modifications to the operation in accordance with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has been made. It said that NPS has assessed its park units and is committed to following the guidelines as per state and local public health guidance to address the pandemic.
Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva was quoted as saying that hundreds of visitors crowded the Grand Canyon Park despite officials' instructions that restrict gathering of 10 or more people. US Interior Secretary David Bernhardt in a statement that as soon as the authorities received the letter from the Health and Human Services Director and Chief Health Officer for Coconino County issuing clear instructions for the closure of Grand Canyon National Park, they sealed it.
Thus far, a blanket closure of its 419 sites and monuments across the United States, including Yellowstone, Yosemite in California, and the Statue of Liberty, has been closed to the public, according to US media outlets. Decisions to shutter National Parks were taken by the respective superintendent after a case-by-case assessment. NPS received a letter this week from at least 10 members of Congress, including House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) who had expressed concerns over the park still functional exposing public and workforce to COVID-19. More than 80 tested positive to the virus in Coconino County, including one at Grand Canyon Park.