Tourists visit the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on the final day the U.S. Capitol will be open to the public due to the coronavirus outbreak on March 12, in Washington, DC. Earlier it was announced the U.S. Capitol will be closed until at least April 1 due to evolving concerns about the spread of the virus. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)

Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Public access to the U.S. Capitol and White House is being restricted as officials look to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The Capitol Visitor Center will be closed to all tours, and access to the building will be restricted to members, staff, credentialed press and official business, according to a statement from the sergeants-at-arms of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The new measures take effect at 5 p.m. Thursday and end the morning of April 1.

“We are taking this temporary action out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public,” the statement said, adding that the decision was made after guidance from medical experts, including Congress’s Office of Attending Physician.

Several lawmakers, including senators Tom Cotton and Maria Cantwell, closed their Washington, D.C., offices. Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state, said one of her staff members tested positive for the virus. Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, cited a positive test on Capitol Hill and said the “most sensible course of action for the public and the congressional workforce under the circumstances is for my staff to telecommute.”

The Trump administration has also scrapped White House tours indefinitely.

“Out of an abundance of caution and until further notice, White House tours have been canceled,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement Thursday.

Tribune Wire

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