Four Smithsonian museums close amid Omicron . staff shortage

As Omicron variant overtakes the country and coronavirus cases reported last week in the capital region have increased their highest since the beginning of the pandemic, the Smithsonian Institution said it would close four of its museums through Sunday.

The museums are the National Museum of African Art, the National Postal Museum, the Anacostia Community Museum, and the National Museum of Asian Art (the Freer Art Gallery and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery). .

“Like many other institutions, the Smithsonian has managed the direct and indirect results of the latest spike in Covid infections caused by the omicron variant,” Smithsonian said. said in a statement posted on its website on Tuesday Notice of closure. “Over the past few days, the Smithsonian has noticed an increase in positive Covid cases and the associated quarantine period between our essential and operations staff.”

The Smithsonian said that closing four museums, which have had lower attendance rates, would allow it to keep larger institutions open by moving guards and other essential staff.

Several museums around the country are also grappling with recent coronavirus-related closures: Several in New York, Maryland and several other states have announced plans to reopen.

In New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art announced last week that it would limit attendance to about 10,000 visitors a day because the Omicron variant is highly contagious, and the Winter Show, a long-established art, antiques and design fair in New York, has Postponed opening January 20 at Park Avenue Armory.

In Queens, the Noguchi Museum is closed through January 4, and in New Haven, Conn., the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art are all closed through January 2. The Baltimore Museum of Art reopened its galleries this morning after closing last week because of the spread of Covid.

Other museums remain open but implement new restrictions: the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Brooklyn Museum, for example, have canceled many in-person tours.

Like the rest of the country, the nation’s capital has seen an increase in cases this month: 1,868 new coronavirus infections was reported in Washington on Tuesday, and the average of 2,071 daily cases, a 931 percent change from the figure two weeks earlier.

The closure comes in the week between Christmas and New Year, when attendance is usually one of the highest of the year.

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