Soon after Joe Biden became president, he signed an executive order that required people to wear masks on federal property and to wear them on all interstate transportation. Though he couldn’t necessarily force a national mask mandate on the U.S., he made sure to put in new regulations that could help cut the transmission of COVID-19. But does his executive order also mandate that people wear a mask in national parks?
The answer to that is yes. The U.S. Department of Interior announced in early February that, since Biden’s order covers federal buildings and federal lands, wearing a mask in national parks is mandatory. The National Park Service (NPS) now requires that visitors and employees wear masks inside buildings in national parks and while outside “when physical distancing cannot be maintained.” For instance, the NPS notes, that includes “narrow or busy trails, overlooks, and historic homes.”
“Wearing a mask around others, physical distancing and washing your hands are the simplest and most effective public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Sara Newman, the director for the NPS office of public health, said in a statement, via USA Today.
Wearing a mask in national parks wasn’t a requirement for most of the coronavirus pandemic. When Donald Trump was in office, the NPS only encouraged people to wear masks. But now there isn’t an option.
That executive order will keep people safer, and it will give park rangers more power to uphold the mask-wearing mandate. As the chief law enforcement at Zion National Park in Utah, Daniel Fagergren now can make sure people comply with Biden’s order.
“Before, we could say, ‘Please put on a mask.’ If someone says, ‘I don’t want to,’ we couldn’t force it or enforce it,” he told KSL.com. “But now, with it being a law, we can take enforcement action.”
Still, Fagergren would rather park rangers show extreme patience and try to educate national park visitors on why they should be wearing a mask.
“It might be a conversation; it might be pulling them aside; it might be visiting them later, or it could—if they really insist on pushing the issues—it could be a citation,” he said. “Those are all tools that we anticipate having to use for those who refuse to comply.”
Read more on coronavirus face coverings:
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- Which U.S. states have mask mandates?
- Pandemic experts say we may live with masks for years
- Not all masks are effective against COVID-19: Here’s a ranking of how safe they are
- How face masks are affecting the deaf and hard of hearing community
- What’s the difference between an N95, an N99, and a R95 face mask?