BANDY CREEK — Visitors to any building of the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area will be required to wear masks, the National Park Service announced Friday.
“Consistent with CDC guidance, visitors to @BigSouthForkNPS, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask inside all park buildings,” the NPS said in a tweet Friday afternoon.
The tweet is a reference to updated guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on Tuesday, stating that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people should wear masks indoors in parts of the country with “substantial spread” of Covid-19. The CDC’s definition of “substantial spread” is 50 new cases per 100,000 population over a 7-day period. With 11 new cases over a 7-day period as of Tuesday, Scott County — which has a population of 22,000 — falls into that category, though just barely. Scott County’s 11 new cases over a 7-day period equates to 50.05 new cases per 100,000 capita.
As a federal government agency, the NPS is bound by the CDC’s guidance.
Remasking has quickly become a political firestorm in the United States in recent days, as covid cases have surged across the country, thanks to the so-called delta variant of coronavirus. Conservative leaders have decried calls for a return to masking, and have accused the CDC’s latest about-face of being the agency’s effort to succumb to political pressure from the Biden administration.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of American companies are requiring employees to be vaccinated. Some are even requiring customers be vaccinated before they’re allowed inside their places of business. Danny Meyer, a popular resturaunteer who owns businesses in New York City and Washington, D.C., told CNN that “If you really want to go unvaccinated, you can dine somewhere else, and you can also go work somewhere else.”
Vaccination rates have stalled across the country. In Scott County, fewer than 40% have been fully vaccinated. Health care experts say that’s a problem, considering that the virus is once again on the increase.
Earlier this week, a representative of the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville said that 89% of covid patients hospitalized in East Tennessee are unvaccinated, and that nearly half of them are under the age of 50. Early on, when covid deaths were rampant, the disease was considered one that largely impacts the elderly. However, as the Independent Herald previously reported, younger adults are making up an increasing percentage of people dying from covid in Tennessee.
Amid the increase in new cases, health professionals have sought to reassure the skeptical public about the safe nature of the vaccines. The CDC says that as of July 26, more than 342 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S. under the “most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.” However, the agency is battling a surge of misinformation that has proven easy to spread on the internet, particularly through social media. Among some of the false claims made about the vaccine are that they cause recipients to be contagious and spread covid, and that they cause a recipient to become magnetic due to metals supposedly found within the dosage.