How Will the Mask Mandate Affect RVers and Campers?
RVing is popular, and has become more so during the pandemic in part because it is one of the most natural forms of social distancing. Nothing beats getting in the RV and setting up camp at a National Park, Bureau of Land Management site, or a Corp of Engineers campground. In almost all cases, your nearest unmasked neighbor is a few hundred feet away or more. While the rest of the world is staying at home, unable to travel, RVers have enjoyed a reprieve from the confines of home in an outdoor, mask-free environment. However, the recent Executive Order issues a Mask Mandate that might affect RVers.
Mask Mandate on Federal Lands
The part that is most concerning for RVers is this statement from whitehouse.gov which includes Federal lands as part of the properties where wearing a mask is mandated;
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.
One point to note in that statement is the as provided in CDC guidelines phrase. One of those key CDC guidelines reads;
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, please check for the rules in your locality.CDC.gov
There Might Be An Exception for RVers
Not that RVers themselves are going to be offered a mask mandate exception, but the Federal lands that RVers frequent might be given one. Paragraph D of Section 2 of the mask mandate states;
Heads of agencies may make categorical or case-by-case exceptions in implementing subsection (a) of this section to the extent that doing so is necessary or required by law, and consistent with applicable law. If heads of agencies make such exceptions, they shall require appropriate alternative safeguards, such as additional physical distancing measures, additional testing, or reconfiguration of workspace, consistent with applicable law. Heads of agencies shall document all exceptions in writing.
This means that if they choose to, department heads could make exceptions in these areas if deemed desired or feasible. Director Margaret Everson of the National Park Service (NPS), Deputy Director Michael Need of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Lieutenant General Scott A. Spellmon of the US Army Corp of Engineers (COE) will all have to decide if a mask mandate exception is something they wish to tackle for lands under their jurisdiction.
It’s Only 100 Days, Isn’t It?
For a large portion of the country, camping and RVing won’t be in full swing for another couple of months. Though the Executive Order just signed is often referred to as the 100 Day Mask Challenge, there is no language in the text suggesting that the mask mandate is limited to 100 days. In fact there doesn’t seem to be a stated expiration date at all. Though not an extensive document, the Executive Order includes several points, but an end date to the mask mandate is not one of them.
It Still Has to Be Enforced
Enforcement of the mask mandate is of course the biggest challenge. Some areas, such as BLM lands, are often so remote there won’t be anyone else around to notice if you are wearing a mask or not. National Parks have seen record attendance numbers during the pandemic, so perhaps additional staff or the presence of other campers will affect an RVer’s decision about wearing a mask in those areas. How well any of it can be enforced remains to be determined.
Remember too that when it comes to Federal buildings on these lands, particularly public bathrooms or clubhouses, the expectation will be to wear a mask.
If you are an RVer that likes to frequent BLM lands, National Parks, and COE campgrounds…don’t worry. Find a great campground, make your reservations and just go. Bring a mask and be prepared to use it if required, but don’t let it ruin your fun.