Rumors abound

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 15:08:18 05/17/20

In Reply to: Park opening? posted by Amber


We were told by several women we encountered while hiking outside the park back 2 weeks ago that the North Entrance was going to open on May 15. They sounded credible. As you know, they were wrong.

Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana, and Cam Sholly, Yellowstone superintendent, are the ultimate authorities on the Montana entrances. Steve Bullock has said that June 1 is the EARLIEST possible date for opening the Montana entrances. Between now and then, the county public health entities for Gallatin and Park Counties are laboring to assess the risks and what processes and resources are available to address any potential COVID-19 outbreak. The problem is that Cooke City has literally NO medical facilities, and historically, no qualified medical personnel, other than the occasional seasonal EMT. West Yellowstone is better equipped, but that is not saying much. At least, Gardiner is only 45 minutes to an hour away from the hospital in Livingston, but even that facility could be quickly overwhelmed by a sizeable outbreak.

I think Steve Bullock is biding his time, wanting to see how Montana does over time in light of the recent reopening of the state's economy. There is also a strong likelihood that he is also watching the rest of the USA to see how other states are faring in the wake of their reopening efforts. He knows that Yellowstone visitors come from all over, including other countries. He knows that the National Park Service's anemic Yellowstone resources are not much of a defense against a potential outbreak in the park or the gateway communities. At present, there are serious differences of opinion in the gateway communities. Folks with businesses that rely heavily on tourism, like guiding, lodging, outfitting, restaurants, etc, are quite anxious to see the Montana entrances reopen. Other residents are very nervous, and a few are quite vocal. They feel like they are in the crosshairs of a COVID-19 rifle aimed at them and their families/friends.

Anyone watching the news videos of other parts of the USA, where some people are totally rejecting the social distancing practices, is rightfully anxious about what could happen once the Montana entrances open, and the summer seasonal flood of tourists arrives. One of my anxieties revolves around the thought of an outbreak among Xanterra's seasonal employees via the dorms or employee dining rooms, even though the housing is being limited to single occupant rooms. The gateway towns, and even nearby cities, like Billings, Bozeman, Cody, Jackson, and Livingston could be quickly overwhelmed by an outbreak. One positive is the restriction against large buses, which should act to temper the danger presented by large groups of foreign visitors.

While we wait to see exactly when the Montana entrances open, I would counsel anyone to not pay attention to anyone who says they know exactly when those entrances are going to open. I don't think Steve Bullock or Cam Sholly know for certain at this point, which means nobody else knows either.


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