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Zion National Park closed, state parks limited amid COVID-19

FILE - This Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, shows Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert announced Friday the state will close Zion National Park immediately to limit the spread of COVID-19. State parks remain open to residents of the county in which they are located — meaning if you want to visit Antelope Island State Park, you may only do so if you are a Davis County resident.

Zion National Park is the next of several other national parks to close, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

“I’m grateful to the Department of the Interior for recognizing the need to close Zion National Park as quickly as possible,” Gov. Herbert said in a statement. “Even with stay home orders and directives in place across the nation, Zion still continues to receive a high number of visitors each day, which greatly increases the risk of infection to communities near the park. We look forward to the day that this pandemic draws to a close and we can once again welcome the world to Utah’s public lands.”

 

Zion National Park quickly responded to executive recommendations, closing the entire park Friday until further notice.

Visitors already in the park had the rest of the day to leave, with the gates officially closing Saturday morning.

“We appreciate the collaboration with state and local agencies and their expertise in steps to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19,” said Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh in a statement. “Zion has been carefully assessing our ability to provide a safe environment amid this crisis and in making progressive changes to operations as needed. However, visitors are continuing to come to the park from all across the country at numbers difficult to maintain social distancing.”

The two roads going into the park will remain open for travel for local residents only. However, stopping at the pull-off points will be prohibited.

Gov. Herbert said several of the visitors who come to these parks are out-of-state visitors, risking bringing the virus in.

The governor announced the closures during his daily briefing with the Utah Coronavirus Task Force. Up until Friday, state parks had been closed to outside visitors — remaining open for county residents in which the park is located.

After announcing the closures, the governor went on to clarify the previous polices will remain, with county residents being allowed inside while outside residents will be turned away.

 

The Utah Department of Health announced Friday the state now has 1,246 confirmed cases and seven deaths — with a rate of 5% testing positive.

The governor went on during the briefing to say what he and his administration expect from Utahns amid the pandemic.

He said this includes not spending time with anyone outside of your immediate household, not inviting visitors to your home — including extended family. Only those who live under the same roof should be spending time together, he said.

 

“Do not travel except for essential services,” the governor tweeted Friday. “Do not hang out in groups, inside or outside. Only leave home if you have to, and do so as little as possible.”

Additionally, the governor said no one should be travelling unless for necessary purposes — like shopping for food or medication. Outdoor recreation is fine, Gov. Herbert said, if social distancing practices are in play.

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