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Grand Canyon crowds cause concern among those who live and work there

People who live in Grand Canyon Village worry tourists may bring COVID-19 to a place that could not handle an outbreak.

GRAND CANYON VILLAGE, Ariz — With more free time on their hands than they know what to do with, Americans are doing their best to keep away from each other, but, in some cases, that means going somewhere many others are going.

The federal government suspended National Park entry fees as a way to give people something to do with many businesses and public places shut down.

This is worrying to the 2,500 people who live in Grand Canyon Village. Multiple people who live there and work as hospitality and logistics staff for the park’s restaurants and stores are concerned that an influx of people to the park will bring the virus to a place that could not handle an outbreak.

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Lani Strange, a bartender at El Tovar, told 12 News that many who live inside the park’s gates live in dormitory-style buildings through which many illnesses spread quickly. 

COVID-19 would be no different, she said.

Collin Smith is married to a park employee, and he’s also at higher risk from the coronavirus than others. With diabetes and high blood pressure, Smith worries that any medical emergency within the park could put a major burden on already scarce medical resources.

Both Strange and Smith brought up the fact that there is only one grocery store in the park. Smith said tourists have been ransacking the store just as those outside the park are doing. Strange said she saw a tour bus pull up to the store recently.

“What is a tour bus even doing here?” Strange asked.

The Grand Canyon Village residents hope that the National Parks Service will completely close the park to tourists, to allow those inside to continue social distancing.

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The National Parks Service has modified Grand Canyon National Park’s operations by closing all hotels and restaurants within the park, but tourists are still allowed in.

Some parks have completely closed, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Joshua Tree National Park is closed to all vehicle traffic but is open to hikers and those on bicycles.

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors urged the federal government on Thursday to close Grand Canyon National Park during the pandemic. 

They said in a statement that keeping the park open to travelers from all over the world is an unnecessary risk.