Yosemite National Park to limit summer visitation due to COVID-19

Yosemite National Park will limit the number of visitors this summer during the peak tourist season due to concerns over COVID-19.

The park’s superintendent, Cicely Muldoon, made the announcement Thursday during a meeting with government and business leaders of the communities surrounding the park. She said that the limits are needed due to large crowds that already have been coming to the park in recent weeks, and the fact that there are still cases of COVID spreading in California, and other states and countries where visitors are coming from.

“The basic plan is to protect human health and safety and provide as much access as we can,” Muldoon said.

Under the new rules, advanced reservations will be required for day use visitors who enter the park from May 21 to Sept. 30.

A similar system was in place last summer to limit visitation to 50% of normal. This summer the visitation will range from 50% of normal to 90%, depending on what levels of COVID are in the surrounding counties.

“We think these numbers will allow people to enjoy the park safely,” Muldoon said.

Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov beginning at 8 a.m. on April 21. Each day-use reservation is valid for one vehicle and its occupants for three days, rather than the seven days that were allowed last summer. Vehicles that arrive at park entrances after May 21 without reservations will not be admitted.

Visitors who will be staying overnight at Yosemite in hotels and campgrounds located inside the park are not required to make day-use reservations. Nor are people with wilderness and Half Dome permits, or visitors entering the park on the YARTS bus system and on commercial tours.

Due to COVID concerns, park shuttle buses will not run this summer. Some, but not all campgrounds in the park will be open. Hotels like the Ahwahnee and Yosemite Lodge will be open, as will most restaurants, gift shops and gas stations. But visitor centers, the park’s museum, theater and High Sierra camps will be closed. One issue is that parks employees and seasonal concession workers  typically live in tightly spaced employee housing, and the park concession company, Aramark, and the park are planning to hire fewer people to reduce the risk of COVID outbreaks in employee housing.

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Crowds already have come back in big numbers to the park this spring. Last week, during Easter weekend, there were lines of cars up to an hour long at the park’s entrance stations, with delays of up to two hours in Yosemite Valley.

Dr. Eric Sergienko, Mariposa County’s health officer, said that some state modeling is showing that as summer travel opens up, there will be increasing COVID cases in California.

“As we see an increase in population mobility we will see an uptick in cases,” he said, noting that a huge surge is not expected but variants of the virus are more contagious.

Two of the counties that include Yosemite, Mariposa and Tuolumne, are in California’s orange tier, with moderate COVID-19 case levels similar to the Bay Area …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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