Rep. O'Halleran joins chorus of calls to close Grand Canyon National Park temporarily
Northern Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran called on Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to temporarily close Grand Canyon National Park on Saturday in order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, as a Grand Canyon Village resident became the first to test positive in the area.
“While I understand our collective desire to get outside, as well as the boost to our northern Arizona economy the Grand Canyon provides, I believe that, in order to preserve public safety and save lives, the park must temporarily close,” O’Halleran said in a media release. “Recent reports of overcrowding on our federal lands have me concerned for the health of families visiting the park, rangers, maintenance staff, those in neighboring rural Arizona communities, and first responders assigned to the park.”
The Tusayan Fire Department had a Facebook post on Monday saying that a Grand Canyon resident had tested positive and had been in self-isolation since March 25.
Smaller parks in the surrounding area, including Petrified Forest National Park, have announced temporary closures. Local Flagstaff area National Monuments, such as Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, and Sunset Crater, are also in the process of closing to the public to lessen the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Currently, the CDC and the president’s coronavirus task force recommend no gatherings larger than ten people.
In calling for the closure of the park, O’Halleran joined Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the Navajo Nation, the City of Tusayan, the Tusayan Chamber of Commerce, the Coconino County Public Health Department, members of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors and acting Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Mary Risser.