Capitol officials extend suspension of tourist access until May

Capitol officials extend suspension of tourist access until May
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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.

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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.

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Four House members — Reps. Mario Diaz-BalartMario Rafael Diaz-BalartHillicon Valley: Uber lays off 3,000 | FBI unlocks Pensacola shooter's phones | Lawmakers introduce bill restricting purchase of airline equipment from Chinese companies Bipartisan bill would restrict purchases of airport equipment from Chinese companies Red-state cities get cool reception from GOP on relief aid MORE (R-Fla.), Ben McAdams (D-Utah), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamGun control group rolls out House endorsements The Hill's Campaign Report: DOJ, intel to be major issues in 2020 Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE (D-S.C.) and Mike KellyGeorge (Mike) Joseph KellyHouse lawmaker among officials, businesses in Pa. filing suit over state's coronavirus shutdown Florida Republican becomes sixth member of Congress to test positive for coronavirus House chairwoman diagnosed with 'presumed' coronavirus infection MORE (R-Pa.) — have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, as has Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSecond senator tests positive for coronavirus antibodies Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Tim Kaine tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies 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.