Iconic Washington Monument shut after visit by COVID-infected Interior secretary - Metro US

Iconic Washington Monument shut after visit by COVID-infected Interior secretary

FILE PHOTO: The Washington Monument is pictured as the sun rises

(Reuters) – The U.S. Interior Department said on Friday it has temporarily closed the Washington Monument because of a shortage of staff due to quarantines following a recent visit by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who is infected with the coronavirus.

“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, such as identifying close contacts and cleaning areas as appropriate,” Interior spokesman Nicholas Goodwin said in an email.

“The Secretary was recently at the Washington Monument. In working with our public officials and 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,” he said.

He said the monument would reopen on Monday.

Bernhardt tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, a representative for the department said at the time, making him the latest in a series of Trump administration officials – including Trump himself – to have been infected by the virus.

Bernhardt was asymptomatic and would continue to work while in quarantine, Interior said at the time.

The Washington Monument, where visitors normally crowd into a small elevator to ascend to the top, is a D.C. tourist attraction. It had been closed for months after the onset of the pandemic, but reopened in October with new limits on the number of people allowed in the elevator at one time.

The Washington Post, which first reported this story, said Bernhardt often led private tours of the monument after hours, including once earlier this week.

(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Steve Orlofsky)

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