COVID-19 Team Update: Museum Closings

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Today, our open museums and the zoo closed to the public. For many of you, this closing may seem sudden, and you might have questions about why this was done in this way at this time. Please know it was a necessary decision made preemptively to protect our staff and our visitors, Smithsonian’s most important assets.

The local and national health metrics – part of our criteria for moving forward in reopening, pausing, or even taking steps back – are trending in the wrong direction. Positivity rates and hospitalizations are increasing. We are not at the point where we would shut down all our operations, but out of an abundance of caution, we closed to the public before we had to, before the risk to our staff or visitors increases. We have closed not as a reaction to risk, but to avoid risk.

By closing our doors, we are reducing the number of people on site – both visitors and the staff required to serve those visitors – which limits opportunities for person-to-person interactions throughout the day. This measure, in combination with Smithsonian’s proven safety guidelines of face coverings, social distancing, enhanced cleaning, and staying home when you are sick means it is now safer to continue working on site if you have been requested to do so.  By following these safety guidelines, you can (and are) limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting yourself, your colleagues, and your community.

During this period of public closure, the Smithsonian remains in a state of enhanced telework, and we must continue to assess how and where we work. If you have not been directed to work on site, please do not come into the workplace. Unit directors and supervisors are reviewing their reopening plans to schedule on-site personnel and are completing risk assessments to ensure the safest work environment possible. If you see opportunities for improvement, please speak with your supervisors or contact the COVID-19 Response Team. We have tools to help assess and reduce risks associated with certain tasks.

The COVID-19 Response Team and Smithsonian leadership will continue working with public health experts and reviewing health metrics to make data-backed decisions. Should the situation worsen, we can, and will, take additional steps to protect our employees. The health and safety of our community is paramount.

Thank you all for your dedication to the Smithsonian, for the thoughtful questions you have posed over the last several days, and your commitment to protecting your coworkers. If you have additional questions, please visit Smithsonian’s COVID-19 Response and Reopening website or email the Response Team.

Be safe and well,
COVID-19 Response Team

Posted: 23 November 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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