The Metropolitan Museum of Art said on Tuesday it would limit attendance to around 10,000 visitors per day due to the highly infectious variant of Omicron. During a normal holiday season, the museum would expect almost twice as many visitors.
“The safety of our staff and visitors remains our top priority,” Met General Manager Daniel H. Weiss said in a statement. “The reduced density is a first step we can take – and our dedicated staff have done an extraordinary job in making the changes necessary to accommodate our public health circumstances while allowing the museum to remain open and ensure the everyone’s safety. “
The move came as another major institution, the Baltimore Museum of Art, said it was closing its galleries until December 29. due to an increase in positive tests for the coronavirus.
“We need a moment to step back and make sure our staff are ready to serve museum visitors,” the Baltimore Museum said in an email Tuesday. “We believe that caution is the best way forward.”
Kenneth Weine, spokesperson for the Met, said reduced capacity would help limit density inside building entrances. Outside the entrances, however, with staff checking visitors’ vaccination status, he said there could be longer lines. The Met will also end food services starting Thursday and are asking many employees to work from home.
Reports of coronavirus cases in New York state have increased by more than 80% in two weeks, and federal authorities have said the Omicron variant now accounts for nearly three-quarters of new cases.
Cultural institutions have generally relied on vacations to increase their income. This latest wave of coronavirus has resulted in the sudden cancellation of shows and special programs in the city. Over the weekend, nearly a third of all Broadway shows were canceled due to positive coronavirus tests among their cast and crew, and several are closed until Christmas.
“The museum field is already facing a slow recovery,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums.
“Another wave of reduced capacity and potential closures, without additional federal assistance, could prove devastating,” she added.
Museums are also implementing new security measures. Washington’s National Gallery of Art and the Brooklyn Museum, for example, have canceled many in-person tours.