Growing number of campers raising fears of COVID-19 transmission, wildfires | KOB 4
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Growing number of campers raising fears of COVID-19 transmission, wildfires

Ryan Laughlin
Updated: July 03, 2020 06:36 PM
Created: July 02, 2020 05:34 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- U.S. Forest officials are noticing an increased number of people camping and recreating outside. They fear the larger number of people will spread COVID-19 and increase fire danger.

"A weekday during this COVID pandemic is more like the kind of crowds we used to get on an average weekend. And weekend traffic is like holiday weekend traffic," said Julie Anne Overton, the spokesperson for the Santa Fe National Forest. "So, we're really bracing ourselves for the 4th of July weekend coming up."

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Campgrounds in state parks are closed, but camping on National Forest campgrounds and dispersed camping remains open.

Overton said they've been getting calls from people with out-of-state with reservations to camp in New Mexico, but is unsure what to tell them regarding the new 14-day quarantine.

"We need to figure out how that's going to affect those campground reservations. I'm not sure, yet." Overton said.

Earlier this week, Dr. David Scrase, cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department, said the evidence is still unclear about transmission of the virus outdoors.

But, COVID-19 isn't the only concern.

"We're in stage two fire restrictions," Overton said. Meaning, no campfires, charcoal grills or fireworks are allowed anywhere in the National Forests.

Overton said they are seeing many first-time campers and people less familiar with the rules which is why they have law enforcement officers prepared to hand out citations for illegal campfires.

As for the social distancing requirements, she says they'll be educating, but not enforcing any state requirements.

Overton said she's anticipating a busy weekend:

"My guess is, if you're not out there now and claimed your spot in one of our developed campgrounds, good luck this weekend," she said.


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