The Washington Monument had been forced to close due to Covid-exposure concerns linked to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the Washington Post has reported.
According to the Post, Bernhardt gave a private tour of the monument this week. He tested positive for Covid Wednesday, sending some of the National Park Service employees who were present for his tours into quarantine.
“As we do in all circumstances when an employee attests to having covid-19, we work with our public health officials to ensure all guidance from the CDC is followed, such as identifying close contacts and cleaning areas as appropriate,” Nicholas Goodwin, a spokesman for the Interior Department, told the Post. “The Secretary was recently at the Washington Monument. In working with our public officials and out of an abundance of caution, a couple of employees have quarantined resulting in a temporary workforce reduction at the monument and its temporary closure.”
The monument had been accepting visitors since October 1, after it was closed for more than six months due to the pandemic. When it reopened, the National Park Service instituted additional safety measures, including limiting elevator capacity, closing at 1 pm each day for hour-long cleanings, and requiring visitors to obtain tickets online before their arrival.
The National Park Service provided no timetable for opening it again, telling the Washington Times only that the temporary closure is “due to a reduction in its workforce resulting from a potential COVID-19 exposure.”
The monument has a long history of closing and reopening for various reasons (often having to do with its elevators). In 2016, it shut down for three years so elevators could be upgraded.