47 minutes | Jan 27, 2021

The confusion over masks in National Parks [NEW 2021 ORDER]

The White House has issued an order that some say requires wearing masks in national parks and BLM land when we are outside. But does it really? It is an understatement to say that there is a lot of confusion over the new COVID rules put in place by the Biden administration requiring the use of masks on federal land. Does that mean we need to mask up while hiking in a national park or hanging out at our BLM campsite? When we are outside? That’s what we’re going to try and answer this week on episode 329 of the RV Podcast. Plus we have lots more RV news, tips, your questions, an interview about a new service that promises to help RVers who have breakdowns on the road, and, of course, another great off-the-beaten-path report from the Burketts. Do campers have to wear a mask when outside or hiking in National Parks or Federal land? There is confusion about whether you need to wear masks in National Parks Last week one of the first things the new Biden Administration did was issue an executive order requiring all people to wear masks on federal land - even when outside. In order to stop the spread of COVID-19 the order states: "individuals in federal buildings and on federal lands should all wear masks" which, if taken literally, seems to imply everyone in a national park or camping on land owned by the federal government popular with boondockers would fall under this order. I know, other RV writers and websites have been really stressing the literal application of the order but it’s been my experience that few things in life are to be taken literally and I would like to suggest we look more at the intent here than the most extreme application. The fact is, right now many details are lacking. For example, it is not clear exactly when this order takes effect, how it will be enforced, or what the penalties are for violating it. Actually, President Biden signed two orders. One requires that masks be worn at airports and on many planes, trains, ships, and intercity buses. That is pretty clear. The Order About Wearing Masks on Federal Property The second order requires masks on federal property. Let me quote from it: “Accordingly, to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.  Who must wear masks in national parks? So the intent of the order is to protect federal workers and those interacting with them. That could include rangers, campers, the folks who staff registration booths, concessionaires. Campground volunteers. Got it. that’s clear. So the requirement is that masks and social distancing be required inside buildings. Understood. What about masks "on federal lands?" But besides buildings, it also says “and on Federal lands.” That is where the confusion comes. Some sensational reporting in the RV media…maybe to get ore clicks… imply that means you now would have to always be wearing masks while anywhere in a National Park or BLM lands. That is NOT what the order says. "Should" instead of "Must" regarding wearing masks in National Parks Let me read what it says: It says “should all wear masks.” Not must. Big difference. It also references that people should follow the CDC guidelines. Well, guess what those guidelines say about wearing masks outdoors? It says masks need not be worn outside, when not in close proximity to people. What the CDC says about outdoor mask use Here’s the exact CDC quote: Masks may not be necessary when you are outside by yourself away from others, or with other people who live in your household. However, some localities may have mask mandates while out in public,
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