COVID-19 Update: Weekly update

Banner showing COVID-19 virus

The last several weeks have been a flurry of activity as we developed and communicated the guidance that would shape our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and prepared the Smithsonian to continue our important work during extremely challenging times. At this time, our museums have been closed to the public for two weeks, events and travel have been canceled until June, OFMR and OPS have gone to minimal staffing, and enhanced telework is in place for many. So much has happened, but in many ways, this is still the beginning of the response.

The COVID-19 Response Team will be here throughout and will be sending weekly communications SI-Wide to keep you informed.

The Federal Government has asked American businesses and organizations like the Smithsonian to continue their efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through the month of April. To continue to do our part to protect the public and our staff, we will be keeping the museums and the zoo closed to the public at the least until May 1, 2020. We will continue to evaluate the situation as we cautiously make plans to reopen in a way – and at a time – that is safest for everyone.

We have been monitoring the status of Virginia, Maryland, and DC “stay at home” orders. A fraction of the Smithsonian Community is considered to be essential workers. These essential employees are typically from Office of Protection Services, Office of Facilities Management and Reliability, and National Zoological Park-Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. If your unit has designated you as an essential employee, you will still able to commute to and from work if you live in a state under a stay at home order. Please make sure you take your SI badge with you when you are commuting to and from work to explain that you have been deemed essential staff, if asked. The current orders also allow you to do essential tasks such as go grocery shopping, receive medical care, and make pharmacy visits.

We want to express our gratitude to the essential employees across the units who continue to work on site to ensure the protection and safety of our collections, facilities, onsite personnel. The social distancing practices and reduced onsite work have already been proven effective in reducing risk to us all and especially to those employees who must be at work. Smithsonian will continue to actively work to protect the safety of the employees who must be on site. As an example, we are tracking the amount and types of personal protective equipment (PPE) SI has available and how long those supplies will last us at our current rate of use. We are monitoring official guidelines about when and if we should wear certain PPE, and are focusing on what is best for our staff and their safety as well as considering the needs of our surrounding communities.

If you are looking for the latest guidance on everything from timekeeping while teleworking, to how to report a positive diagnosis COVID-19 to the Smithsonian, or even information on how to update your passwords, please visit the website we’ve developed to host our communications, answer your questions, and link to helpful tips and tools.

If you can’t find an answer to your question on the website, and it is related to something you might have questions about on a typical day before the pandemic – such as annual leave policies, technology questions, or mid-year performance reviews – please ask who you’d normally ask. Your supervisor, your administrative and financial staff, and the central support offices are all standing by willing to help.

Please continue to reach out with your COVID-19 pandemic-related questions to We will continue to communicate with you regularly through SI-Wide emails and through the website, but we’re also available to answer specific COVID-19 questions. Additionally, we will begin medical updates on the COVID-19 illness itself with Dr. McDonough, Smithsonian’s Physician and Public Health Officer. If you have a medical question you would like answered, you may submit it to the inbox. She will be leading these updates to keep all of us up-to-date and informed.

Last but not least, these are trying times for all of us. We want to remind you that the SI Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers short-term counseling by phone. EAP staff will be available between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday and can help you as you navigate this new reality. Read this document to learn more about how you can access their services.

Thank you all for your patience and demonstrating a can-do spirt as we shift to a new type of normal in our work lives. Stay safe and be well.

The COVID-19 Response Team


Posted: 30 March 2020
About the Author:

Alex di Giovanni is primarily responsible for "other duties as assigned" in the Office of Communications and External Affairs. She has been with the Smithsonian since 2006 and plans to be interred in the Smithson crypt.

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