- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Capitol will be closing its doors to tour groups as lawmakers trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus within their halls.

The sergeant-at-arms for both the House and Senate are preparing to make the announcement, according to multiple reports.

With the weather warming and cherry blossom season around the corner, tour groups are flooding the Capitol from all over, congregating in historic areas and the tight spaces like the galleries over the chambers.

The decision comes as lawmakers grew concerned that allowing large groups of tourists into the Capitol contradicted warnings from health officials to avoid crowded gatherings.

“You know, especially some of these tours with hundreds of people, I think we should be reconsidering that,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told reporters earlier Wednesday. “Especially (given) the fact that this outbreak has reached DC.”

At least 22 cases have been reported in the DC-Maryland-Virginia region.

Earlier, the Attending Physicians Office warned lawmakers Wednesday about attending large gatherings and navigating large crowds.

At a briefing with House Democrats’ the day before, they were urged to limit shaking hands and screen visitors for potential symptoms of illness before allowing them into the office.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday morning that lawmakers were “reluctant” to close the Capitol.

“We’re very cognizant of the fact that this is the people’s Capitol,” he said.

Lawmakers are preparing their offices to work remotely, but there are no plans to cancel votes or change the legislative schedule.

Several lawmakers have gone into self-quarantine this week after coming into contact with individuals that tested positive for the coronavirus.

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