Texas Capitol tours suspended amid coronavirus concerns

Texas Politics
coronavirus capitol sign

A hand sanitizer dispenser and welcome sign with hygiene information were on display inside the East entrance to the Texas Capitol on March 13, 2020. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Capitol has suspended public tours amid growing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Coronavirus causes a disease called COVID-19. Austin Public Health reported its first cases in the capital city on Friday, and Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster Friday to unlock resources for the state’s response to the outbreak. At least 39 cases were reported statewide heading into the weekend, with dozens of additional tests underway, Abbott said.

“Concerns regarding the COVID-19 virus have led the State Preservation Board to suspend public guided tours effective Monday, March 16, until further notice,” the State Preservation Board wrote on social media. The board operates and maintains the Capitol grounds.

“Additionally all sponsored public events and guided school field trips are canceled as of March 16 as well,” the spokesperson indicated. Representatives for the board were in the process of calling organizers of scheduled tours and updating them on the cancellations.

Elected officials and their staffs will be able to continue government business, and the building will remain open to the public for “business and self-guided activities, but limited visitor services will be provided,” a spokesperson for the State Preservation Board said.

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen suspended all “non-legislative gatherings in the House Chamber, House meeting rooms, and the John H. Reagan Building until further notice” on Friday.

Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the state senate, temporarily halted public hearings for the upper chamber as state leaders tackle emerging cases of the coronavirus.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum, the Capitol Visitors Center, and the Texas State Cemetery will remain open to visitors, as will the Capitol Grill and the gift shops in the Capitol Extension and CVC, the board reported. The Bullock Museum announced Friday that it was “suspending all public programs, group tours, field trips, and theater shows through April 30,” but would remain open to visitors for the time being. It would also continue implementing “rigorous cleaning routines in accordance with CDC recommendations,” according to a statement.

Capitol tours will resume “once community transmission of the COVID-19 virus is contained,” a board spokesperson confirmed.

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