The Smithsonian Institution announced that the National Zoo and all eight of its recently opened museums will once again close in Washington, D.C in response to COVID-19.
These include the National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Museum of American History.
Also closing are the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, and the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.
“Museums are places for gathering,” said Smithsonian spokesperson Linda St Thomas (via Smithsonian). “And gathering in groups is not recommended by public health officials.”
This is due to rising regional and national cases related to COVID-19. The Smithsonian has not announced a reopening date, but the institutions will close from November 23.
The Hirshhorn Museum’s sculpture garden and Smithsonian gardens located around the National Mall near the Smithsonian museums will remain open.
Smithsonian museums close from November 23
In a statement, the Smithsonian said its top priority is to protect the health and safety of visitors and staff. It will use this time to reassess, monitor and explore risk-mitigation measures.
The Smithsonian Institution is closely monitoring guidance from local governments, public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In an email to staff, Smithsonian secretary Lonnie Bunch wrote: “Our gradual, cautious approach to reopening, starting in late July, allowed us to safely welcome visitors back to eight Smithsonian facilities in fulfilment of our public service mission.
“However, we have always been ready and willing to take a step back when the data indicates it is necessary to do so to protect our staff and visitors.”
Meanwhile, the Smithsonian Institution is laying off 237 employees in a bid to offset the ongoing financial losses caused by closures amid COVID-19.
The Smithsonian, which oversees 19 museums, nine research centres, and the National Zoo, has lost $49 million since it closed in response to the pandemic in March.