The Smithsonian Institute has announced the temporary closure of four of its museums over concerns of the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
“The National Museum of African Art, the National Postal Museum, the Anacostia Community Museum and the National Museum of Asian Art (Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery) are closed effective tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 29, and are scheduled to reopen Monday, Jan. 3, 2022,” the Smithsonian said in a statement.
“Like many other organizations, the Smithsonian has been managing the direct and indirect outcomes of the latest surge in [COVID] infections caused by the omicron variant,” the statement added. “Over the last few days, the Smithsonian has seen an increase in positive [COVID] cases and associated quarantine periods among our essential and operational staff. The closures of these four museums will allow the Smithsonian to reallocate staff and keep all other museums open for the remainder of the week.”
“The Smithsonian strives to keep as many of our museums open to the public as possible without sacrificing the health and safety of our visitors and staff,” it concluded.
The decision to shut down the museums comes as Washington DC, where all four of the museums are located, has seen a severe increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. According to NPR, over the past two weeks, DC has seen a 930% increase in COVID-19 infections in the past two weeks, averaging more than 2,000 new cases per day.
Under the statistic, Washington DC is currently in the lead with the most infections per 100,000 people, with 293 infections per 100,000. New York stands in second place with 192 infections per 100,000 people.
The surge in cases comes even as the district has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, with at least 85% of DC residents having at least one dose of the vaccine. Over 67% of its residents are fully vaccinated.
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