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New Army museum to close Monday amid surging coronavirus pandemic

Pylons details information about soldier who fought in Vietnam, inside the Cold War Gallery at the new National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Va.

COREY DICKSTEIN/STARS AND STRIPES

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 11, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Army’s brand new flagship museum in Virginia will close its doors to the public Monday amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, the service announced Friday.

The National Museum of the United States Army on Fort Belvoir will close indefinitely “as a public health precaution,” the service said in a statement. The announcement comes just one month after the new museum’s Veterans Day grand opening.

Since Nov. 11, the museum had been open with restrictions meant to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, including mandating visitors wear masks, reducing the maximum capacity inside the building, and enforcing social distancing. Visitors had been able to reserve free tickets online to visit the museum at a specific time.

The museum will remain open Saturday and Sunday to visitors who reserve tickets, the Army said.

The decision comes as cases have increased in the Washington, D.C. area in recent weeks amid a national surge in coronavirus cases. Coronavirus cases in Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest county and Fort Belvoir’s location, have risen steadily since mid-October. On Thursday, county public health officials said the county had averaged more than 500 new cases per day during the last week, the highest weekly rate recorded there since the pandemic began in March.

“The health and safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors remains our highest priority,” the museum said in a statement.

The new museum traces the Army’s militia roots in the early 1600s through its roles in ongoing wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. The 185,000-square-foot museum features more than 1,300 artifacts, many of which had never been displayed to the public, officials said previously.

It is billed as the Army’s first effort to tell the service’s comprehensive story through the eyes of American soldiers. Its exhibits include six dedicated to combat, one that examines the connection between the Army and American society, one that shares the history of the nation’s highest military decoration -- the Medal of Honor, and a virtual reality gallery where visitors can step into a World War II tank simulator, fly in virtual historic aircraft and even test their marksmanship skills.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com
Twitter: @CDicksteinDC