Less than a week into President Joe Biden’s tenure, the National Park Service has ended public access to the Washington Monument and other indoor areas of the National Mall as cases of the coronavirus continue to rise in D.C.
The Park Service announced in a statement Friday the Washington Monument, as well as the “Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, and the tour of the Old Post Office Tower, are now closed as a COVID-19 mitigation measure.”
The closures will be in effect “until further notice,” the Park Service said, and are intended “to protect staff and visitors from the spread of COVID-19.”
“Outdoor memorials on the National Mall remain open, as do public restroom facilities,” the statement added.
Closed to the public
A tracker from The New York Times shows more than 35,000 Washington residents have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and over 870 have died, including at least 76 this month alone. Nationwide, nearly 420,000 have died from the disease, the Times reports.
In light of rising numbers, the Park Service said it was reclosing indoor areas of the National Mall. Parts of the mall and the Washington Monument were previously “closed on January 11 for security reasons surrounding the 59th presidential inauguration,” their statement recalled.
The Park Service added:
The National Park Service will monitor public health conditions in the Washington, D.C. area, as well as the opening status of other nearby visitor attractions, and reopen the Washington Monument and other indoor park facilities as soon as it deems it is safe to do so.
The Park Service also said the closure was “consistent with local and federal guidance, including the Centers for Disease Control, and was completed in consultation with the National Park Service Office of Public Health.”
Biden makes his moves
The move is just the latest taken by the Biden administration in its first days to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Biden himself has issued a spat of executive orders related to the disease, including one requiring masks to be worn on federal property and in federal buildings.
But Biden has also faced pushback for appearing to violate his own orders, as have members of his staff.
Fox News reported that Biden was seen without a mask Wednesday evening while touring the Lincoln Memorial with his family. “Does Joe Biden’s new executive order mandating masks on federal property not apply to Joe Biden while he’s on federal property?” conservative activist Charlie Kirk tweeted in response.
Pressed on the issue by Fox’s Peter Doocy in a subsequent news conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki shrugged it off. “I think we have bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time,” she said, according to the New York Post. Seriously?