The National Museum of African Art is one of the four Smithsonian museums to temporarily shutter this week. (via Flickr)

The Smithsonian Institution has temporarily closed four of its smaller museums in Washington, DC due to a rise in cases of COVID-19 among its staff. The National Museum of African Art; the National Postal Museum; the Anacostia Community Museum; and the National Museum of Asian Art will be shuttered starting today, December 29, and will reopen Monday, January 3.

“Over the last few days, the Smithsonian has seen an increase in positive covid cases and associated quarantine periods among our essential and operational staff,” says a statement. “The closures of these four museums will allow the Smithsonian to reallocate staff and keep all other museums open for the remainder of the week.”

In November 2020, the Smithsonian temporarily closed all of its museums in DC for the second time since the start of the pandemic, and began a phased reopening in May of this year. Now, the institution is prioritizing keeping its major museums open during one of its busiest periods, the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

The US reached a seven-day average of 267,000 COVID-19 cases yesterday, a new record caused by the perfect storm of the highly contagious Delta and Omicron variants rapidly spreading across the nation. While vaccines safely and effectively reduce the likelihood of severe illness, people who become infected must remain isolated, contributing to labor shortages that have roiled industries from airlines to the arts. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City recently reduced attendance to help stop the spread, and the Museum of Modern Art is requiring booster shots for its employees.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened the recommended isolation period for infected individuals down from 10 days to five for those without symptoms, partly as a way to mitigate shortages and the virus’s economic impact.

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...