The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is shutting down its visitor center and limiting group sizes for trail workers in a bid to help prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading along the trail, the group said on Friday.
In a letter from President and CEO Sandra Marra, the ATC said it would close down its Harpers Ferry headquarters until at least March 20; it plans to reassess the situation next week and decide whether to extend the closure. The group also said it would cancel the 2020 Flip Flop Festival, which had been scheduled for April 25 and 26.
Additionally, the ATC said it has asked staff to cancel or postpone non-essential travel. In-person gatherings, including trail work crews, will be limited in size to 12 people.
To hikers planning on hitting the trail, the Conservancy echoed health professionals' advice, asking users to stop congregating in groups, avoid sharing food, and keep their distance from other hikers. If hikers believe they have contracted COVID-19 on the trail, the ATC asks that they leave the path and report their case to the organization.
More than 2,100 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in the United States so far; 48 patients have died.. As of Friday evening, every state along the Appalachian Trail had at least one confirmed case, with the exception of West Virginia.