US Capitol to cease public tours amid coronavirus outbreak

US Capitol will cease all public tours through at least the end of March.

Ben Ariel ,

US Capitol
US Capitol

The US Capitol will cease all public tours through at least the end of March amid mounting fears of a widespread coronavirus outbreak, multiple people familiar with the decision told Politico on Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed members of the decision in a Wednesday afternoon meeting. The decision is intended to help prevent the spread of the virus across the sprawling Capitol campus, where many senior-aged lawmakers are already at higher risk. The restriction applies to all tours — public, staff-led and member-led.

By the end of the week, the Capitol complex will be restricted to official business only, people familiar with the decision told Politico.

The move — which was made jointly by congressional leaders, Capitol security officials and medical staff — comes amid mounting pressure from lawmakers and aides to restrict public access to the building.

No change to the legislative schedule has been announced. Both the House and Senate are slated to leave Washington for a week-long recess starting Thursday, and are tentatively expected to return as planned on March 23.

The decision to return will be made sometime next week, again in consultation with the top four congressional leaders and other Capitol security offices.

Several lawmakers have gone into self-quarantine in recent days after interacting with a person who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference last month and who was later hospitalized with coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially announced that the coronavirus outbreak is set to become a pandemic.

The announcement has no practical meaning, as restrictions across the world have already been introduced to deal with the virus.