Following the closure of some art institutions across the U.K. and Europe, museums in the United States have begun to take new measures against the Omicron variant. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that it would reduce visitor capacity effective immediately. Starting Thursday, indoor dining will be closed.
“Please prepare for longer lines and wait times outside the Museum,” the museum said in a statement. “We apologize for any inconvenience. The health and safety of our visitors, volunteers, and staff is our first priority.”
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New York City, once the epicenter for Covid-19 in the United States, has experienced a surge in cases as a result of the Omicron variant, with the city breaking its case record for the third day in a row. Meanwhile, city-operated testing sites and private laboratories are struggling to accommodate the demand for PCR testing ahead of holiday traveling.
When the pandemic first began in the U.S. in March 2020, the Met became the first museum in the U.S. to close. Many other institutions across the country soon followed suit.
Proof of vaccination and mask use is currently mandatory to enter all New York museums, but the Met is the first major one in the U.S. to announce additional restrictions in response to Omicron. In an email to ARTnews, a Met spokesperson said that the “health and safety of our staff and visitors is our top priority.” The spokesperson did not indicate any plans for a lockdown.
On Tuesday, the CDC reported that cases of the variant had been detected in most states, fueling concerns that a fifth coronavirus wave this winter is likely. Some cities across the U.S. have begun taking action. Earlier this week, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced that proof of vaccination will be required to enter most indoor spaces starting on January 15, including cinemas, concert venues, and museums.
In a press conference, she stated that “the vast majority of hospitalizations are of unvaccinated individuals,” adding, “It’s time for Boston to follow the science and public health data to ease [health care workers’] burden to take the big steps that we can to help close vaccination gaps.”