Montana Public Radio

Worries Over Rural Health Facilities Prompt Calls For Yellowstone's Closure

Mar 23, 2020
Originally published on March 23, 2020 4:51 pm

Park and Gallatin County health officials are asking Yellowstone National Park to close immediately to prevent visitors from potentially spreading COVID-19 in gateway communities and overwhelming local health care facilities. 

While March is a slower month for tourism, Park County Health Officer Laurel Desnick says Yellowstone National Park was busy this weekend.

“I personally drove up there on Saturday to see for myself and was quite shocked to see at Gardiner and the Mammoth gate, a non-stop stream of cars," Desnick said.

On Sunday, Park and Gallatin County health officials sent letters to Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt requesting the immediate closure of Yellowstone.

“The concern is not that we don’t want these people or don’t trust these people. The concern is that should there be illness or even accidents, we have a small critical access hospital in our county. It does not accommodate a large influx of tourists or travellers from other places," Desnick said. 

A Yellowstone spokesperson Monday afternoon said the park was aware of the request to close and was closely monitoring the situation. The park closed the Albright Visitor Center and Boiling River soaking area last week until further notice.

Glacier National Park released an Instagram post Sunday saying the Apgar and Lake McDonald areas were crowded this weekend as well and that people were not adhering to the CDC’s recommendations for six feet of distance.

The post said crowds put park staff at higher risk to COVID-19 and urged visitors to spread out into less visited areas of the park, other public lands and even their own backyards.

For those who want to get some exercise at home, more gyms and fitness centers are livestreaming classes. On Saturday, around 200 people broke a sweat during a free workout led by Zephyr Cycling Studio in Bozeman.

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