TUESDAY, Aug. 17, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Masks are now required for all visitors, employees, and contractors inside U.S. National Park Service (NPS) facilities and in crowded outdoor spaces, the service said Monday. The mandate applies regardless of an individual’s vaccination status or community transmission levels and will be in effect until further notice.

“Visitors to national parks are coming from locations across the country, if not across the world,” NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge, said in a news release. “Because of this, and recognizing that the majority of the United States is currently in substantial or high transmission categories, we are implementing a service-wide mask requirement to ensure our staff and visitors’ safety.”

Along with all NPS buildings and public transportation systems, masks will be required in outdoor spaces where physical social distancing is not possible, such as narrow or busy trails and overlooks.

“Being vaccinated is the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of the coronavirus,” Capt. Maria Said, M.D., an epidemiologist in the park service’s Office of Public Health and a member of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, said in the NPS news release. “Masking in addition to being vaccinated will help prevent the spread of new variants and protect those who are more at risk of severe disease. This simple act of kindness allows us to be safe while we continue to enjoy the benefits of our national parks.”

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