Yellowstone Entrances Reopen

A woman takes a selfie as Old Faithful erupts June 1 in Yellowstone National Park.

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A handful of concession employees and visitors at Yellowstone National Park have contracted the novel coronavirus, the first positive tests of employees in the park.

More than 1,000 surveillance tests performed on “front-line employees” at Yellowstone have come back negative, according to a park news release. However, two concession employees and three visitors tested positive for COVID-19.

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly in a news release urged people who experience virus symptoms to “do the responsible thing and don’t come to the park,” noting some visitor cases had symptoms before visiting.

“You end up putting our employees, health care providers and other visitors at risk,” Sholly said.

Of the two concession employees, one had virus symptoms while away from the park, and the other had symptoms while in the park. The employee who was outside the park was isolated immediately. The park news release said it’s likely that person contracted the virus outside the park.

The employee who experienced symptoms inside the park caused several other employees to quarantine as a precaution, park officials said. Nearly 40 people were tested the week of July 20 in and around the area where the positive employee worked. All results came back negative.

No further information was released to protect the employees’ privacy, the park said.

Park officials said 10 Park County, Wyoming, health officials and first responders all tested negative, too.

Three visitors who sought medical help at Yellowstone clinic contracted the virus “recently after being in the park.”

One visitor spent a night in the park. A second visitor was there for a day. A third person was tested outside the park after visiting for a week, although it’s unknown if that person contracted the disease in the park.

George Larson, U.S. Public Health Officer, said a “limited number of cases” have appeared in different locations across the park.

“Currently, there is no indication of any type of community spread in the park although we are monitoring it very closely,” Larson said in the news release.

The park is working with counties in Wyoming and Montana to test its wastewater for levels of COVID-19 at the park’s most “popular developed areas.”

Of the four samples, a test in late June showed a “low-level detection” of the virus, the park news release said. Samples taken earlier this month showed a prevalence of the disease slightly lower than the samples the prior month. The first two samples “detected zero presence” of the virus.

The park and Wyoming’s health department will routinely test wastewater samples for a year.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.