After less than two months of mask use being optional, Grand Teton National Park officials have again implemented a mask mandate for all of the park’s indoor buildings after a significant increase in the number of active COVID cases in Jackson.
According to the most recent data from the Wyoming Department of Health, Teton County had the highest number of active cases in the state, despite it also having the highest COVID vaccination rate in the state, at around 95%.
For an undetermined amount of time, park visitors will have to wear masks inside of all park buildings, regardless of their vaccination status. These buildings include visitor centers, administrative offices, lodges, gift shops and restaurants within the park.
Park spokesman C.J. Adams told Cowboy State Daily that masks became optional in park buildings as of March 3.
Last week, the Teton County Health Department changed its coronavirus risk level to “high” after an increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations. As of June 8, the county averaged 24.1 cases over the previous seven days, for a total of 169 reported cases.
In the last two weeks, 19.3% of the COVID tests taken at sites throughout the county had a positive result.
Since June 1, St. John’s Health in Jackson has admitted six patients with COVID-related symptoms and transferred two of them to higher levels of care.
“We understand that moving up to the high level is frustrating at this point in the pandemic,” Teton County Health Officer Travis Riddell said last week. “We would all prefer to move past COVID-19 and not hear that our risk is increasing.”
Riddell encouraged everyone in the community to wear a mask in public indoor settings while the county remained in the high risk level.
“We know that all community members will assess their COVID-19 risk differently depending on their situation,” he said. “Though multiple treatments are available, preventative measures are still the best steps to protect ourselves and limit virus propagation in our community.”
Riddell did not return Cowboy State Daily’s requests for comment on Monday.
Grand Teton was not the only national park in recent days to reinstate a mask mandate. Glacier National Park in Montana also implemented one late last week.
There has been no similar announcement at Yellowstone National Park, but Yellowstone was also closed Monday for at least two days due to flooding and rockslides in the area.