ST. LOUIS — The Saint Louis Art Museum will close to the public for the rest of January due to a surge in COVID-19 cases among staff members.
The museum said it will continue to operate through 5 p.m. Friday. Officials anticipate reopening on Tuesday, Feb. 1.
“The COVID protocols we have adopted over the last two years have ensured that visiting the Museum is safe. However, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in our community—as well as positive COVID cases among Museum employees and their families—has compromised our ability to operate the Museum for the benefit of our visitors while continuing to be safe for our staff,” the museum wrote in a news release.
While museum spokesman Matthew Hathaway said he was unable to provide infection or close-contact figures for staff members, he told the Business Journal in an email Friday that officials began seeing the "trend" early this week. By Thursday, the number of cases, quarantines or household exposures in certain critical operational areas led to officials examining whether keeping the St. Louis Art Museum open "made sense or was sustainable with current case numbers," according to Hathaway.
"Although we can never know how this happened, many of the cases were reported before people returned to work after taking time off for the holidays last week," he wrote in an email. "We are not aware of any instances of spread between staff members, or staff members getting infected through contact at the museum." However it's hard to pin down such information separate from other community spread, he added.
Programs and tours that were scheduled in January will be canceled. More details about when they’ll return will be released later in the month.
Guests who bought tickets for the Art Along the Rivers: A Bicentennial Celebration exhibit will have their tickets automatically refunded. The exhibit was set to run through Sunday. It won’t be extended, art museum officials said.
“During this public closure, the Museum will continue to offer robust virtual programs and will explore ways to further strengthen procedures that will allow us to reopen safely,” the museum wrote in its release.
Officials will share reopening updates on the Saint Louis Art Museum website and social media pages.
Later Friday, the Missouri Historical Society announced all three of its locations will be closed until February over similar COVID-19 concerns and staffing issues.
The City of St. Louis and the entire St. Louis area have seen a rapid rise in virus cases as the highly contagious omicron variant continues to quickly spread.
The most recent data on the city’s COVID-19 dashboard shows a seven-day average of 431 new confirmed cases a day. The average positivity rate is 35%.
On Thursday, the city health department announced it was opting not to follow the CDC’s latest guidance that reduced the number of isolation days for those who test positive for COVID-19. Health Director Mati Hlatshwayo Davis recommended people with the virus should stay in isolation for 10 days unless they get a negative test on the fifth day.
There are several COVID-19 testing sites available in the City of St. Louis. See a full list here.