SPONSORED:

Capitol officials extend suspension of tourist access until May

Capitol officials extend suspension of tourist access until May
© UPI Photo

U.S. Capitol officials announced Monday that restrictions on access to the complex due to the coronavirus pandemic will be extended until at least May 1.

Paul Irving, the House sergeant-at-arms, and his Senate counterpart, Michael Stenger, said in a joint statement that the suspension of Capitol tours and limited access to the Capitol will continue through the month of April. They initially announced a closure that would have lasted through the end of March.

"We are taking this temporary action out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public. We appreciate the understanding of those with planned visits interrupted by this necessary, but prudent, decision," they said in Monday's statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

The extension comes after the Trump administration extended its social distancing guidelines to April 30, which marked a shift from last week, when the president said he hoped the country would be "opened up" by Easter.

Capitol tours were suspended starting March 13 and access to the building has been limited to lawmakers, staff, media and official business visitors. Both the House and Senate will be out of session until at least April 20.

Before lawmakers left Washington, D.C., House and Senate leaders established new protocols to protect lawmakers and staff who must be in the Capitol.

The Senate, for example, allotted more time than usual for roll-call votes in recent weeks to help reduce the number of senators on the floor at a given time. In the House, officials required everyone to use hand sanitizer before entering and exiting the chamber.

Many House members were also instructed by party leadership to sit up in the chamber's visitors' galleries during a vote on Friday to pass a $2 trillion coronavirus economic relief package to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

ADVERTISEMENT

Four House members — Reps. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Democratic Rep. Carbajal tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Fla.), Ben McAdams (D-Utah), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-S.C.) and Mike KellyGeorge (Mike) Joseph KellyMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Democratic Rep. Carbajal tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Pa.) — have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, as has Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (R-Ky.).

At least two Capitol Police officers have also tested positive for the virus.

--This report was updated at 1:31 p.m.