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Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks close to visitors
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Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks close to visitors

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Tourists take photos in front of a geyser in Yellowstone August 13.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks announced Tuesday that they are closing to all park visitors until further notice.

The closures went into effect immediately. No visitors will be allowed to enter either park, though state highways and roads that transcend park boundaries will remain open. So will facilities that “support life, safety and commerce,” according to the park’s announcement.

The closure announcement comes after health officials in two Wyoming counties and two Montana counties called on Yellowstone’s superintendent to close the park.

“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in joint statement. “We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible.”

Health officials from Park and Teton counties in Wyoming and Park and Gallatin counties in Montana had all requested the change.

The local health officials had expressed concern that encouraging tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic could spread the virus, the Billings Gazette and Missoulian reported.

“Our shared ability to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak will be greatly complicated and imperiled by the arrival of thousands of tourists to our community,” wrote Matt Kelley, health officer for Gallatin County, in a letter dated March 22.

Park officials said they would notify the public when the parks resume full operations.

The decision to close the parks to visitors comes amid widespread closures around the region. In Wyoming, for instance, school are closed through early April.

And last week, Gov. Mark Gordon and the state’s top health official ordered a two-week closure of many businesses where people tend to congregate, including bars, gyms and museums.

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Joshua Wolfson joined the Star-Tribune in 2007, covering crime and health before taking over the arts section in 2013. He also served as managing editor before being named editor in June 2017. He lives in Casper with his wife and their two kids.

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