National Park Service staff working Mount Rushmore event weren’t required to get tested, agency says

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KEYSTONE, SOUTH DAKOTA – JULY 01: The busts of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln tower over the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore National Monument on July 01, 2020 in Keystone, South Dakota. President Donald Trump is expected to visit the monument and make remarks before the start of a fireworks display on July 3. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

BLACK HILLS, S.D. (CNN) — The National Park Service says it did not require employees who worked the Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore on Friday to get tested for coronavirus, despite the record-high new cases in the US and President Donald Trump’s attendance at the event.

“None of the Incident Management Team members for the event have reported exhibiting any symptoms or feeling unwell,” agency spokesperson Dana Soehn said in a statement Saturday.

CNN reported that some Park Service staff were wearing masks and others were not at the Friday event in South Dakota. There was no social distancing at the event as attendees were clustered together in stadium seating.

Soehn said face masks were available to all Park Service employees who worked the event and use was recommended at all times when social distancing could not be maintained.

Soehn added that the agency is following US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for health monitoring of the work force and that Department of Interior “employees are encouraged to conduct daily self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 using the CDC symptom webpage or the CDC Self-Checker, and to not report to the workplace if they exhibit any symptoms or feeling unwell.”

Coronavirus cases in South Dakota currently remain stable, according to data from Johns Hopkins University — but it was unclear how many attendees had traveled from other states to the Mount Rushmore event. More than 7,000 tickets were available for Friday’s event.

The CDC says that outdoor spaces are less risky than indoor areas for Covid-19 spread, but still encourages standing 6 feet apart from others and to avoid crowded parks.

Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump on Friday attended the Independence Day celebration in South Dakota to view the fireworks above the national landmark. In a 40-minute speech, Trump railed against what he called a “merciless campaign” by his political foes to erase history by removing monuments some say are symbols of racial oppression and assailed protesters as a left-wing mob that intends to “end America.”

Despite the coronavirus pandemic raging on, the President has pushed for large public gatherings, holding a rally last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and speaking to a crowded church in Arizona. The White House maintains that the President is tested regularly for coronavirus.

At the Tulsa event, the Trump campaign conducted temperature checks, provided hand sanitizer to attendees and passed out masks, but did not require people to wear them or social distance during the event.

Eight campaign staffers and two Secret Service agents who were on site for the rally tested positive for coronavirus and the rest of Trump’s campaign staff who attended quarantined the following week. At least one high-profile Trump supporter who attended the rally, former presidential candidate Herman Cain, was hospitalized after being diagnosed with coronavirus. His spokesperson, however, said it was impossible to know whether Cain contracted the virus at the rally, where he was pictured without a mask.

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