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Living with Covid-19: Is it safe to visit US national parks?

Yosemite

Merced river in Yosemite National Park, California

Most National parks across America have now re-opened and people are overjoyed! After weeks spent indoors visiting parks can be a great stress reliever and a good old-fashioned time with the family, but is it safe?

National parks are the country’s treasures, showing natural beauty that spans from the Florida Everglades to California’s giant sequoias. Last year 4 million people visited Yellowstone alone. The Great Smoky Mountains national park, is the busiest, averaging a million visitors per month.

Spending time outdoors is good for one’s mental health, emotional, and physical well-being.  Research also shows that spending time in nature can have lingering effects, helping people be more productive at work and better at problem-solving. Being surrounded by nature also has a profound positive effect on creativity.

But among these benefits, hikers and nature lovers, even the most avid ones, are concerned about the risks. Potential park-goers are worried about crowds at the park. They wonder if social-distancing guidelines will be followed, and they are not sure if it is safe to be in a place with so many people.

Footbridge in Redwood National Park, California, United States

With social distancing and mask regulations still in our lives, we shouldn’t treat a visit to the park any different than any other form of interaction. Public health experts believe the benefits of opening up the national parks outweigh the risks, so long as visitors take precautions.

Bring your masks and hand sanitizer. If you are near others (yes, even on an open trail), you should wear your mask. If you find yourself separate from others on a wooded path, it's OK to put your mask down.

As with everything in life, balance is the key. Going out to see, hear, and feel nature is a blessing we should all enjoy. Walking around nature has so many benefits and at a stressful time like these days, we could all use a break. But do take care of yourself and your fellow nature lovers. Practice social distancing wherever possible, wear your mask, clean your hands, enjoy our great national parks, and stay safe!

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