The Metropolitan Museum (photo via Sagie/Flickr)

While dozens of galleries, museums, and fairs have shuttered worldwide amid the rapid spread of COVID-19, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has become the first major museum in New York City to close due to the pandemic. Today, Daniel Weiss, the museum’s president and chief executive, announced the Met’s three locations — the Met Fifth Avenue, Met Breuer, and the Met Cloisters — will close indefinitely starting Friday, March 13. According to a statement, “The Museum will undertake a thorough cleaning and plans to announce next steps early next week.”

“The Met’s priority is to protect and support our staff, volunteers, and visitors,” said Weiss. The New York Times reports that the decision, made in consultation with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, comes after two Met employees exhibited symptoms of the virus, which affects respiratory function.

“While we don’t have any confirmed cases connected to the museum, we believe that we must do all that we can to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our community, which at this time calls for us to minimize gatherings while maintaining the cleanest environment possible,” Weiss continued.

In an emailed statement, the museum said it “has been preparing for this possibility for several weeks, and has developed an operational plan that is now being put in place, which includes provisions to support salaried and hourly staff.”

According to the Times, the Met has previously only closed on two occasions, following 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.

Hyperallergic is closely monitoring global closures and delays related to the virus in a roundup, updated daily.

Jasmine Weber is an artist, writer, and former news editor at Hyperallergic. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.