A new sign of New York’s escalating coronavirus concerns: the Met museum is shutting down

Image: Reuters/Keith Bedford
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art won’t be offering a diversion from coronavirus-related anxiety this weekend—or for the foreseeable future. In an effort to help contain the Covid-19 pandemic, New York’s iconic 148-year old museum has decided to shut its doors starting Friday, March 13.

In addition to its main site on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, its two other branches, the Met Breuer on Madison Avenue and the Met Cloisters in the Bronx, will also be closed.

“While we don’t have any confirmed cases connected to the museum, we believe that we must do all that we can to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our community,” Met president and CEO Daniel H. Weiss said in a press statement. “This time calls for us to minimize gatherings while maintaining the cleanest environment possible.” Weiss said the museum will undergo “a rigorous cleaning routine” while it’s closed. He didn’t offer any predictions as to when the museum might consider reopening.

Among the world’s most visited cultural institutions—it welcomed more than 7 million art lovers last year—the Met has shut down twice in recent history: for two days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and for two days after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, as the New York Times points out.

After today’s announcement, it’s unclear if the Met will be forced to rescind its promise to hold its annual gala on May 4. Nancy Chilton, chief external relations officer of the museum’s Costume Institute, had said the $35,000-per-ticket fundraiser was expected to proceed as planned.

The decision to close the museum reflects growing efforts in the US interest to stem the spread of the virus in crowded entertainment and exhibitions spaces.

Several of New York’s other cultural institutions have already announced that they’re postponing or canceling their programming.  The Frick Collection closed its galleries indefinitely. Carnegie Hall canceled all performances until the end of the month. The New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera are also closed. And New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all Broadway theaters to shut down by 5:00 pm today, as part of the ban against gatherings of 500 people or more.

The Guggenheim Museum, another famous landmark on Manhattan’s Museum Mile, has decided to remain open as of this writing.