Congress is closing the US Capitol, House, and Senate office buildings to the public until April 1 in reaction to coronavirus.
The House and Senate sergeants at arms said in a statement that the closure will begin at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday. Lawmakers, aides, journalists and official visitors will be allowed into the buildings.
The statement says officials are acting "out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public."
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
On March 11, The World Health Organization officially declared the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, a global pandemic.
The disease that has killed more than 4,300 and infected over 120,000 people around the world has spread at an alarming level, according to WHO.
While the new designation may sound scary, WHO authorities clarified that “pandemic” has nothing to do with how serious the illness is, but rather that it has spread at rates that are alarming.
The nation snapped to attention as the new coronavirus was declared a pandemic and stocks slid into bear market territory. As Americans belatedly seemed to come to grips with the outbreak, President Donald Trump held a rare prime-time address from the Oval Office to calm the public.
Health and government officials have been sounding the alarm about the virus for nearly two months as it infected and killed thousands of people, pinballing from China to Iran to Italy and beyond before striking Seattle in the first deadly outbreak in the U.S.
But Wednesday was the moment that the larger American public came to the dawning realization that the toll of the virus would be unavoidable for months to come, perhaps longer.
You can also get the latest coronavirus news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.
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Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.