U.S. Capitol Closed to Public over Coronavirus

In this Dec. 18, 2019, file photo the U.S. Capitol building is illuminated by the rising sun on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congress is shutting the Capitol and all House and Senate office buildings to the public until April in reaction to the spread of the coronavirus.
Matt Rourke, AP

The U.S. Capitol and its nearby congressional buildings will be closed to the public due to coronavirus concerns, with Congress announcing Thursday that only staff, lawmakers, press, and official business visitors will be allowed inside the buildings.

“Following the guidance of the medical community, particularly the recent recommendation of DC Health, and in consultation with the Office of Attending Physician, the Sergeants at Arms of the House of Representatives and Senate have issued a temporary closure of the Capitol Visitors Center to all tours,” the joint statement from the House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger read.

“In addition, access to the Capitol and the House and Senate Office Buildings will be limited to Members, staff, credentialed press and official business visitors,” they added.

Irving and Stenger added that the temporary closure would begin at 5 p.m. on Thursday and last until April 1, and would include access to the Capitol Visitor Center.

The announcement comes shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the coronavirus a global pandemic.

At least 127,000 patients have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, with at least 4,717 deaths reported worldwide. In the U.S., there are at least 1,323 people sickened by coronavirus and 38 deaths related to the illness.

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday night that he was severely halting air travel between most of Europe and the U.S. over the next 30 days in an effort to contain the virus here while other countries abroad try to contain the outbreak in their own countries.

Several lawmakers, such as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), have announced Thursday that they would be closing their Washington, DC, offices.

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