Yellowstone National Park

Good news out of Yellowstone: All 190 employees swabbed for COVID-19 came back negative for the illness.

The National Park Service, along with Montana and Wyoming health officials, tested employees June 17 and 18, Yellowstone announced Tuesday in a news release.

One concession employee originally tested positive for COVID-19, but this was deemed a “false positive” after the same employee was retested twice and both retests were negative.

When Yellowstone National Park reopened, park officials pledged to routinely test its employees — specifically first responders and those who frequently interact with visitors. Since late May, 577 coronavirus tests have been administered to Yellowstone employees. This past week, 162 tests were completed; the park is currently awaiting those results.

In addition to swabbing employees, Yellowstone tested wastewater samples in Gardiner, Montana, Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs between June 13 and 16. No traces of coronavirus were found in those samples. The park is presently waiting on wastewater test results taken from Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs between June 27 and 29.

Although the pandemic has forced many to stay home, the latest visitation statistics are showing that hasn’t put a damper on Yellowstone tourism.

Yellowstone calculated that visitation from its Wyoming entrances is at 99% of what it was in 2019. Currently, Yellowstone is in Phase 2 of its reopening plan — meaning that campgrounds, visitor cabins, stores, takeout dining and visitor centers are open to the public.

Despite a lack of new cases in the park, the West Gate community of West Yellowstone, Montana, announced Tuesday that the community would cancel its Fourth of July parade.

“Our number one priority is the health and safety of our Town residents, employees and visitors,” a release from Destination Yellowstone said. “We feel this is the best situation for the health of our local community and we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support during this challenging time.”

On Tuesday — following the advice of Montana and the Gallatin County Health Department — the small community canceled its July 4th parade.

Montana is still in Phase 2 of its reopening plan, which prohibits gatherings of over 50 people.

Although the parade isn’t happening this year, expect the annual fireworks to go off at around 10:15 p.m. Saturday night in West Yellowstone. In order to uphold social distancing guidelines, the park asks people to view the fireworks from their residences.

Contact Julia Hornstein via courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

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