Visit By COVID-Infected Official Shutters Washington Monument

December 18, 2020 by Dan McCue
The Washington Monument in July 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The interior of the Washington Monument will be temporarily closed to visitors over exposure concerns from an earlier visit by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who tested positive this week for the coronavirus.

The National Park Service initially said the closure, which began Friday, was due to a staff shortage stemming from an unspecified exposure to the coronavirus.

Later Interior spokesman Nicholas Goodwin said “a couple” employees had been quarantined since Bernhardt’s visit, “resulting in a temporary workforce reduction at the monument and its temporary closure.”

Goodwin said in an email to the AP that the Washington Monument, normally one of the capital’s most visited sites, would reopen Monday, with tickets going on sale Sunday.

The closure comes after the Interior Department disclosed Wednesday, after an inquiry from The Washington Post, that Bernhardt had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The monument only reopened this past October after a six-month hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic.

Officials with the National Park Service did not say how many employees were exposed to the virus, only noting that it wasn’t felt enough staff were available to operate the monument safely.

Since reopening on Oct. 1, the staff at the monument has been following comprehensive safety protocols in line with federal and local requirements and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and other health organizations.

These protocols have included a face covering requirement for anyone inside the monument; online ticket distribution only, to prevent queuing among visitors; physical distancing in the elevator and other public areas of the monument; revised operating procedures to minimize contact between staff and visitors; and an extra mid-day cleaning and disinfecting of the monument.

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