Washington Monument closes after Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19

Washington Monument closes after Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19
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The Washington Monument has temporarily closed after Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who gave appointees a tour of the monument, tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Interior spokesperson Nicholas Goodwin confirmed to The Hill that Bernhardt gave a “small group of appointees” a tour of the monument this week. 

“As we do in all circumstances when an employee attests to having COVID-19, we work with our public health officials to ensure all guidance from the CDC is followed,” Goodwin said in an email. “Out of an abundance of caution, a couple of employees have quarantined resulting in a temporary workforce reduction at the monument and its temporary closure.”

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The Washington Monument closure began on Friday and Goodwin said it will reopen on Monday. It was first reported on Wednesday that Bernhardt had tested positive for the coronavirus.

A post on the National Park Service’s website said that it is “working to staff the Washington Monument at the appropriate levels to maintain the safety of its operations” and the monument has had a “comprehensive safety program” since it reopened in October. 

The Washington Post, which first reported on Bernhardt’s tour with appointees, noted that his positive test has raised concerns about upcoming plans for Deputy Interior Secretary Katharine MacGregor to visit Wyoming. 

Goodwin told the newspaper that the trip will continue because department health officials determined that she "has not had close contact with Secretary Bernhardt as described by CDC guidance.” 

Earlier this year, parks advocates and health experts raised concerns about the potential for the spread of the virus at national parks and that parks’ out-of-state visitors could make it harder to track. 

Several national parks also closed at various points amid the pandemic, though the Trump administration has largely advocated for keeping them open in its push against broad coronavirus-related restrictions.

Updated: 2:44 p.m.