Smithsonian Museums Are Newest to Shutter as Virus Surges

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Smithsonian Museums Are Latest to Shutter as Virus Surges

As coronavirus cases surge across the country, the Smithsonian will again temporarily close eight of its facilities in the Washington area on Monday.

"The institution's top priority is protecting the health and safety of its visitors and employees," the Smithsonian said in a statement. "We will use this time to re-evaluate, monitor and investigate additional risk reduction measures."

Seven museums and the National Zoo, all of which reopened by September 25, will be closed again, the statement said.

No reopening date has been announced.

The decision came as a second wave of museum closings was announced in a number of states across the country. In the past few days, officials in Oregon, Illinois and several other states have announced new virus restrictions requiring museums to close again, and several prominent Philadelphia institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, announced plans to close again this week .

New York's Smithsonian, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and National Museum of the George Gustav Heye Native American Center have been closed to the public since March 14th.

The Smithsonian had gradually reopened eight of its facilities in the Washington area that summer, starting with the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on July 24 in Chantilly, Virginia.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Renwick Gallery followed later on September 18. “We didn't have any staff infections, which means our security protocols are working. Smithsonian's secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III told the Washington Post at the time.

The National Museum of American History and the National Museum of the American Indian reopened on September 25th.

Like the rest of the country, the country's capital has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks: 156 new coronavirus cases were reported in Washington on Wednesday, and the average of 155 daily cases was a 73 percent increase from two weeks earlier .

By Thursday afternoon, at least 19,678 cases of coronavirus had been reported, according to a New York Times database, and at least 667 people had died in Washington since the pandemic began.

The closings are the latest setback in a dismal time for the country's museums. A survey by the American Alliance of Museums released Tuesday found that nearly one in three museums in the US will remain closed due to the pandemic, and that most have never opened again since the first closure in March.

"The financial situation of US museums is deteriorating," said Laura Lott, president and executive director of the American Alliance of Museums, in a statement in which the survey results were announced.

The Smithsonian said visitors who had reserved tickets for timed entry would be contacted directly. The outdoor gardens remain open, no IDs are required.

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