So far, so good: Testing of the 43 non-symptomatic Yellowstone National Park employees in front-line positions and interacting with the public over the past two weeks yielded no positive COVID-19 results.
The employees have been working with the public since the park opened the Wyoming entrances on May 18.
“This is the most aggressive employee surveillance testing being conducted in the National Park System,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We couldn’t do this without our partners in the states and counties. Our goal is to detect positive COVID-19 cases as early as possible, so we can isolate and support those employees, while reducing chances of spreading the virus. Information gained from this program will inform management decisions.”
When the decision was made to open the Wyoming gates on May 18 and the Montana gates on June 1, testing of Yellowstone employees was a prime component of the public-safety plan, which was developed with the State of Wyoming and Park County, Wyoming. Before the entrances opened Yellowstone officials implemented a series of COVID-19 mitigation protocols that included social distancing at popular gathering spots, surveillance testing and symptomatic testing and plenty of protections both for visitors and employees at the gates.
The move comes as Yellowstone slowly ramps up during the summer 2020 season. With most hotels and services shut down (although some recently opened), visitation for this year is predictably below prior levels. According to a Yellowstone press release, vehicle traffic from May 18-31 during the park’s limited reopening of the Wyoming entrances (East and South) was 70 percent of the traffic for the same dates for those entrances in 2019. When compared to the same timeframe in 2019 with all five entrances open, the visitation in the park between May 18-31 this year was 20 percent of the visitation for the same dates last year.
After the three Montana gates (North, West and Northeast) fully opened on June 1, vehicle traffic entering via Montana entrances on June 1-3 was 45 percent of the same days in 2019. The park recorded 7,186 vehicles through the Montana entrances June 1-3, 2020 versus 15,934 vehicles on June 1-3, 2019.
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