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Grand Canyon Residents Call For Park Closure Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

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Concern is growing among residents of Grand Canyon Village as the national park remains open amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Some are calling on the Interior Department to suspend visitation to protect the approximately 2,500 people who live and work there. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Some residents of the South Rim say they feel vulnerable as visitors continue to arrive. With park fee collection suspended they fear increased visitation could lead to an outbreak that would quickly overwhelm medical services. One resident says some workers don’t drive and live in dormitories where physical distancing is difficult. Locals have begun an online petition calling for a temporary closure of the park.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not recommended that national parks close. A Grand Canyon spokesperson says the park has limited or suspended visitor services not related to public and resource protection. According to the National Park Service no decision has been made about closing Grand Canyon, and officials are using guidance from the CDC and local health departments.

Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Great Smoky Mountains national parks closed this week. In addition, the Coconino, Kaibab and other national forests have restricted many campgrounds and recreation sites.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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