The House and Senate Sergeant at Arms announced Thursday morning that visitor access to the Capitol will be severely limited through the end of March amid the coronavirus outbreak.
All tours have been cancelled, per the memo. According to the Architect of the Capitol, about 21 million people visit the Capitol each year, 60 percent of them between March and July.
Now, those allowed to roam the Capitol will largely be limited to members of Congress, their staff and credentialed press. Any “official business visitors” must be accompanied by staff at all times, and their numbers are limited.
The crackdown comes as workplaces worldwide — including TPM’s — are shut down and workers sent home to try to stop the spread of illness.
Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was firm in her conviction that her members would not flee the Capitol any earlier than the scheduled spring recess starting Thursday.
“We are the captains of the ship. We are the last to leave,” she reportedly said in a closed-door meeting, per the Hill.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) applauded the visitor restrictions from the Senate floor Thursday morning, but confirmed that members of Congress — many of whom are old enough to be at a higher risk of getting very ill from coronavirus — will continue their business as usual.
“I fully support the decision of these nonpartisan officers,” he said, adding that “Congress will continue to do our work.”