Grand Canyon National Park Closes To Visitors Amid Pandemic

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In this March 27, 2020 photo, Shelly Clayton, center, walks up the Bright Angel Trail at Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz., with her children Audrey Kuhar, 11, left, and Cooper Kuhar, 11. The park has closed restaurants, lodges, visitor centers, campgrounds and other services as it awaits approval from the federal government for a full shutdown. (Jake Bacon/Arizona Daily Sun via AP)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The Grand Canyon closed indefinitely to visitors Wednesday, joining other national parks seeking to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Staff at the Grand Canyon had been shutting down visitors services piecemeal as the federal government initially rebuffed its request to shutter completely. On Tuesday, visitors still had access to restrooms, a grocery store and bank at Grand Canyon Village.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said he finally approved the park’s request at the recommendation of a local health official who said keeping the park open puts employees, residents and tourists at risk.

The park reported earlier this week that a resident who worked at a lodge run by a concessionaire tested positive for COVID-19 and spent time in isolation.

“It is a relief to a lot of the people in the park and community members,” Grand Canyon spokeswoman Joelle Baird said. “We’ve heard from a lot of people being angry and frustrated and uncertain of the direction the Park Service was going.”

The closure includes a state highway that runs through the park’s South Rim entrance and the East Rim on to the Navajo reservation. The road will be open to local traffic only.

Federal, county, local and tribal officials had joined Grand Canyon residents in calling on the Park Service and Interior Department to close the park.

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