Congress shuts down Capitol to the public, White House cancels tours amid coronavirus pandemic

Key Points
  • The U.S. Capitol and House and Senate office buildings will be closed to the public for the rest of the month. 
  • White House tours will also stop until further notice as officials try to curb the spread of coronavirus. 
  • The moves in Washington come as confirmed cases in the U.S. top 1,300. 
Tourists walk in front of the U.S. Capitol dome down the steps to the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday, March 12, 2020.
Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Congress will bar public access to the U.S. Capitol for the rest of the month, and the White House will temporarily cancel tours as officials try to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Capitol tours will stop, while access to the building along with House and Senate office facilities will be limited to members, staff, press and business visitors starting Thursday at 5 p.m. ET, the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms Paul Irving and Michael Stenger said in a statement. 

White House spokesman Judd Deere told NBC News the administration will stop tours of the president's residence "until further notice." 

The moves come as fears grow about the spread of the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19. More than 1,300 cases have been reported in the U.S., and at least 38 people have died.

Lawmakers and the White House are scrambling to agree to a relief package for workers affected by coronavirus. Republicans have criticized a proposal House Democrats hoped to vote on Thursday, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiates with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

Both chambers of Congress are scheduled to go on recess next week.

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