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Montana state parks see attendance increase during virus

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HELENA (AP) – Montana state parks and fishing access sites have experienced a major increase in visitation as residents spend time outdoors amid health restrictions related to the coronavirus.

Estimated visitation at state parks climbed by more than 60% compared to this time in previous years, The Independent Record reported Saturday.

Managers estimate there were nearly 152,000 visitors at state parks in March and April this year, compared to about 95,000 in 2019 and 2018.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock issued a stay-at-home order, which included an exemption for outdoor recreation but also encouraged those going outside to stay close to home.

Parks close to larger urban areas experienced some of the most significant increases.

“We understand that our parks and trails play a critical role in how people deal with the stress and uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought,” Montana State Parks Administrator Beth Shumate said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Joseph T. O'Connor is the previous Editor-in-Chief for EBS newspaper and Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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