Facing COVID-Related Staff Shortages, Smithsonian Shutters Four Museums


The Smithsonian Institution has temporarily closed four of its small museums in Washington, DC due to an increase in COVID-19 cases among its staff. The National Museum of African Art; the National Postal Museum; the Anacostia Community Museum; and the National Museum of Asian Art will close from today, December 29, and reopen on Monday, January 3.

“Over the past few days, the Smithsonian has seen an increase in positive covid cases and associated quarantine periods among our critical and operational staff,” a statement said. “The closures of these four museums will allow the Smithsonian to reassign staff and keep all other museums open for the remainder of the week.”

In November 2020, the Smithsonian temporarily closed all of its museums in Washington for the second time since the start of the pandemic, and began a gradual reopening in May. of this year. The institution is now prioritizing keeping its large museums open during one of its busiest periods, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The United States yesterday hit a seven-day average of 267,000 COVID-19 cases, a new high caused by the perfect storm of the highly contagious Delta and Omicron variants spreading rapidly across the country. While vaccines safely and effectively reduce the likelihood of serious illness, those infected must remain isolated, contributing to labor shortages that have rocked industries from airlines to the arts. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City recently cut attendance to help stop the spread, and the Museum of Modern Art is requiring booster shots for its employees.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened the recommended isolation period for those infected from 10 days to five days for those who have no symptoms, in part to alleviate shortages and l economic impact of the virus.

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Valentina Di Liscia is a writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her Masters at Hunter College, where she received the … More by Valentina Di Liscia

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