The Metropolitan Museum of Art Has Indefinitely Closed All Three Locations After a Staffer May Have Caught Coronavirus

The staff member exhibited flu-like symptoms after traveling overseas.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Fifth Avenue entrance. Courtesy of Shinya Suzuki/Flickr.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is indefinitely closing all three of its locations starting Friday after two of its staffers started exhibiting symptoms associated with the coronavirus.

In an email sent to museum employees this week by Met president Dan Weiss, he acknowledged that one employee in the department of drawings and prints was exhibiting “flu-like symptoms” after returning from overseas travel.

Weiss said the testing was being done with the guidance and support of New York health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.

The museum did not respond to Artnet News’s requests for comment.

“As is now standard practice, out of an abundance of caution we have asked all staff who have had contact with that individual to work at home until the test results have been received,” Weiss said in the email, which was sent Tuesday.

The department of drawings and prints has also been closed “and secured, and will be cleaned thoroughly before staff are permitted to return,” Weiss wrote. The employee expects to get the results from their test sometime this week.

Another employee began exhibiting similar symptoms, according to the New York Times.

The museum has now implemented a ban on all international travel and is strongly discouraging all “discretionary domestic travel via common carriers (e.g., planes and trains).” Work-from-home procedures are being put in place for those who are able to do their jobs remotely.

This is a particularly significant year for the Met: the museum is celebrating its 150th anniversary and recently announced plans to kick off celebrations on April 13 with a ceremonial cake-cutting with city and state officials, followed by a party this spring welcoming the approximately 1,000 living artists in its collection. The museum has not yet determined whether these events will proceed as scheduled.

The coronavirus, which has roiled markets around the globe, now also seems to be threatening cultural institutions’ finances—including the Met’s. In the email sent to staff on Wednesday, Weiss and Hollein noted that the museum’s finance officers were “assessing the economic repercussions of coronavirus” and how the institution could “compensate” for any losses. International tourists accounted for 28 percent of its visitors in the 2019 fiscal year; unlike locals, they must pay a $25 admission fee.

“While the negative impact on the museum’s revenues is likely to be significant,” Weiss and Hollein wrote, “leadership has a number of short-term funding sources that it can use to reduce the financial strain in fiscal year 2020.”

Meanwhile, the Frick Collection and the Jewish Museum have also closed.

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