The White House and the U.S. Capitol have halted all public tours of the historic government buildings as concerns over the spreading coronavirus pandemic reach a new high.
The White House issued a statement and is informing callers that the building is closed to the public until further notice, as Fox News reports.
“Out of an abundance of caution, all White House tours have been temporarily suspended, effective immediately,” the message says.
The U.S. Capitol is also ending tours until at least the end of March, Politico reveals. The move was made Wednesday afternoon in an effort to help prevent the COVID-19 virus, as the coronavirus is officially known, from spreading.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed Congress about the decision, which will see all non-official visitors banned from the building as of the end of the week.
Lawmakers have been expressing concerns about the number of public visitors, which includes lobbyists and tourists, moving through the buildings.
Rep. Dean Philips, a Democrat from Minnesota, argued that Congress appeared to be setting a bad precedent.
“We’re not practicing what we’re preaching,” he said. “We should encourage people to not travel here right now. I would argue we are part of the problem.”
“I think it would be prudent at this point to stop the tours until a time when we feel that those can be done in a way that doesn’t affect the health of the tourists at risk,” agreed Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming.
Pelosi, meanwhile, has argued that the Capitol should remain open for public business because it could stoke the fears that people have about the virus impacting government and business in the U.S.
At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control has urged people to avoid large crowds. The Capitol’s doctor echoed this advice, even as tour groups were being led around the building.
“There’s some value to projecting confidence, and, but there’s also some value to being smart, prudent and diligent. We are the nerve center of the world. Sometimes you have to act,” said Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana.
The World Health Organization officially recognized coronavirus as a pandemic on Wednesday, as The Inquisitr previously reported. While the organization has hesitated to use the word because of its potential emotional and political impact, with nearly 1,000 cases in the U.S. and more than 118,000 worldwide, and close to 4,300 deaths as of Wednesday, the organization was facing pressure to act.