WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian Institution announced that all Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo, will temporarily close beginning Nov. 23 due to the increase of COVID-19 cases nationwide.
The closure will impact all eight Smithsonian facilities in the D.C. area that had previously reopened to the public. A reopening date has not yet been announced, according to Smithsonian officials.
"The Institution’s top priority is to protect the health and safety of its visitors and staff. We will use this time to reassess, monitor and explore additional risk-mitigation measures," according to a release by the Institution. "We are closely monitoring guidance from local governments, public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
While the museums remain closed, virtual exhibitions, online collections and educational resources are still available to the public through the Smithsonian's website. Visitors who had reserved timed-entry passes to visit at a future date are being contacted directly, the Institution said.
Back in September, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, along with the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum reopened with new COVID-19 prevention measures.
The museums reduced days and their hours of operation as visitors were urged to reserve free timed-entry passes to visit most locations.
A critical tier of employees will still continue to work on-site, including zookeepers. The majority of the Smithsonian's staff members will continue to telework, with Congressional funding protecting against any paycheck disruptions.
"I think [the decision] speaks to the fact that this is our new normal," Smithsonian spokesperson Alise Fisher said. "Being able to adapt to the situation as it changes, and it's been changing very quickly."