Coronavirus headlines: National parks visitors should plan for ‘new normal’


In this 2010 photo provided by Yosemite National Park, an American black bear is seen in Yosemite National Park, Calif. The bears in the park are behaving better than they have in 40 years. The park recorded the lowest number of human-bear incidents since 1975, when officials started tracking bears, who damage property, steal food, injure or kill people or act aggressively. This marked a fourth year that a bear has not injured or killed a person. (Yosemite National Park via AP)

10:30 p.m. update:

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Utah (AP) — After closing amid the coronavirus pandemic, the National Park Service is testing public access at several parks across the nation, including two in Utah, with limited offerings and services. Visitor centers and campgrounds remain largely shuttered at Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, but visitors are welcome at some of the sites.

“I felt like they did it right here because if they opened all the services, I think it would have been too much. Too many people would hit it,” Donna Sullivan, of Sedona, Arizona, told The Salt Lake Tribune Wednesday at Bryce Canyon.

Sullivan was on a day visit to hike the park’s Rim Trail and Bryce Amphitheater, two of the few hiking destinations currently open at Bryce. She found plenty of room to social distance, but Bryce will likely see larger crowds as word gets out that the park is open and will not collect entry fees.

Visitors should steel themselves for a “new normal” that will not likely square with their last trip, said Acting Park Service Director David Vela.

“You may have facilities that aren’t going to be available, but the (park’s) footprint will be. So it will be a different visitor experience, and it will be a different normal that we’re going to need to own and, frankly, mitigate,” Vela said Friday. “This gets to the value and importance of making sure that visitors know what to expect when they get to the park, making sure that visitors go to the park’s website (and) social media … as to what is accessible, how to plan your trip, and, most importantly, what are the expectations when you get there.”

Recent crowding at southern Utah’s state parks could offer a hint of what’s headed Bryce’s way later this season, said Bryce Park Ranger Peter Densmore.

“This experiment, this limited reopening is really a cooperative effort between us and the public. It’s not possible to reap the full benefits of the mitigations we put in place if people aren’t aware of them and helping us to enforce them,” Densmore said at the shuttered visitor center.

While the park reopened its core attraction, Bryce Amphitheater, Capitol Reef took an opposite approach, keeping its historic center at Fruita and the Scenic Road closed for now.

“You will see more and more parks provide recreation access. We are doing it very thoughtfully,” said park service spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo.

Parks are staffing up and will increase access as workers are in place to patrol trails and roads, host campgrounds and operate visitor centers and museums. At the Utah parks, seasonal employees from out of state must quarantine for 14 days before they can report for duty, which will slow the process.

Openings have yet to be announced for Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.

Major parks throughout the country that have begun limited openings include Badlands and Wind Cave national parks and Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota; Everglades National Park in Florida; Indiana Dunes National Park; Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada; Mount Rainier National Park in Washington; Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky; Pinnacles National Park in California.

Advocacy groups fear the park service is moving too fast and urge extreme caution.

“We are also eager to get Americans back into our national parks. But it is too soon,” warned Phil Francis, a retired superintendent who heads The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. “Parks absolutely should not open until the safety of National Park Service employees, concession employees, volunteers and other partners, including those who work and live in gateway communities, can be ensured.”

Most park staffers will be in contact with visitors and many live on-site, in close quarters, in government-owned housing, he said. According to a park service document, parks should estimate that up to 40% of the total staff at the park may require isolation and 4% may require hospitalization.

“This is not only impossible under the current setup,” Francis said, “it is unacceptable.”

9 p.m. update:

NEW YORK (AP) — New York leads the nation in the number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is coming under increasing criticism for his handling of the crisis. Health care watchdogs and lawmakers cite problems with testing and transparency that have prevented health officials — and the public — from grasping the full scale of the problem. And they are second-guessing a state directive that requires nursing homes take on new patients infected with COVID-19 — an order they say accelerated outbreaks in facilities that are prime breeding grounds for infectious diseases.

7 p.m. update:

ROME (AP) — South Korea’s capital shut down nightclubs after a cluster of new coronavirus infections and Italian authorities fear a second wave of cases as countries around the world try to find a balance between easing restrictions and keeping the public safe. The city of Seoul shut down more than 2,100 bars and other nightspots after dozens of people were infected. And during the first weekend of eased restrictions in Italy, Milan’s mayor threatened to shut down a trendy district amid fears that people were becoming too friendly during cocktail hour. Meanwhile, health officials in the U.S. are watching for another wave of infections, roughly two weeks after states began gradually reopening.

3 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. regulators have approved a new type of coronavirus test that administration officials have touted as a key to opening up the country. The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday announced emergency authorization for antigen tests developed by Quidel Corp. of San Diego. The test can rapidly detect fragments of virus proteins in samples collected from swabs inside the nasal cavity, the FDA said in a statement. Currently, the only way to diagnose active COVID-19 is to test a patient’s nasal swab for the genetic virus material. While considered highly accurate, the tests can take hours and require expensive, specialized equipment. Quidel says its tests can produce results in 15 minutes.

1:15 p.m. update:

HONOLULU (WJW) — Hawaii reported no new cases of the novel coronavirus for the first time in nearly two months.

On Friday Hawaii’s state health department said the number of positive cases remained at 629, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.

The last time there was no new case in the state was on March 13. At that point Hawaii had just two cases in total.

Hawaii has been under a statewide stay-at-home order since the last week of March. The newspaper reports that the new of new COVID-19 infections has been declining in recent weeks.

1 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government is sending supplies of the first drug that appears to help speed the recovery of some COVID-19 patients to six states, where it will be distributed by health departments.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it is delivering 140 cases of the drug remdesivir to Illinois, 110 cases to New Jersey, 40 cases to Michigan, 30 cases each to Connecticut and Maryland and 10 cases to Iowa. Each case contains 40 vials of the drug, the department said in a statement.

“State and local health departments have the greatest insights into community-level needs in the COVID-19 response,” the statement said.

The company that makes the antiviral drug, California-based Gilead Sciences, has said it is donating its entire current stockpile to help in the U.S. pandemic response.

Remdesivir was cleared for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration last week.

The department says the doses have to go to more critical patients including those on ventilators or in need of supplemental oxygen.

11 a.m. update:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some U.S. governors are seeking to bolster their home-state production of vital medical supplies and protective equipment after difficulties in buying such items during the coronavirus outbreak. Until now, the U.S. has relied heavily on foreign countries such as China for medical supplies and personal protective equipment. The governors of Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts and Missouri all said this week that they hope to develop more in-state manufacturing of personal protective equipment to ensure its availability in a crisis and to drive down shipping costs. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he doesn’t want “our health destiny” to be dependent on China.

9:15 a.m. update:

(CNN) — Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza will not be on the UFC 249 preliminary card Saturday after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Souza was to fight Uriah Hall in a middleweight bout. In addition, his two cornermen also tested positive for Covid-19, the UFC said.

“UFC’s medical team examined Souza and his two cornermen and found them to be currently asymptomatic, or not exhibiting the common symptoms of Covid-19,” UFC said in a statement on its website. “As per UFC’s health and safety protocols, all three men have left the host hotel and will be self-isolating off premises, where UFC’s medical team will monitor their conditions remotely and will provide assistance with any necessary treatment.”

The UFC said the three have followed health and safety protocols, including practicing social distancing, wearing personnel protective equipment and self-isolating whenever possible. No other positive Covid-19 tests have been reported among those participating in UFC 249.

“The response to this development is indicative of the effectiveness of the health and safety measures UFC has put in place for this event,” the UFC said.

7:30 a.m. update:

CLEVELAND (WJW) — Many Ohio businesses that shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic are making their plans to re-open as the United States unemployment rate reaches levels the country hasn’t seen since the early 1930s.

As of Friday afternoon, Ohio reported more than 23,000 total coronavirus cases. This was an increase of 885 in the last 24 hours which is above the 21-day average. There were more than 1,300 deaths, an increase of 35 in the last day. That’s right near the three-week average.

Ohio’s salons and restaurants can open next week.

Governor Mike DeWine is expected to share more about the process of reopening daycares on Monday.

The coronavirus crisis has sent the US unemployment rate soaring to 14.7 percent, which is a level that the country hasn’t seen since the Great Depression.

The US Department of Labor says that more than 20 million jobs vanished in April, making it the worst monthly loss on record. Most of that, of course, was triggered by a nationwide shutdown of factories, stores and offices.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump says he’s in “no rush” to negotiate another financial rescue bill.

Democrats are currently discussing a bill that could top a trillion dollars, much of which could go to state and local governments struggling with the financial fallout of the virus. However, the package seems to have little Republican support.

The President continues to predict a big rebound later this year. He says the country’s unemployment numbers are no surprise and that the jobs “lost” will be back soon.

For much more on the coronavirus, including here in Ohio, click here.

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