▶ Watch Video: U.S. hits record number of new COVID-19 infections Monday as Omicron variant spreads

Four Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. will temporarily be closed as the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 impacts its staff, the institution announced. The city is experiencing what local officials call a “winter surge” in COVID cases.

“Like many other organizations, the Smithsonian has been managing the direct and indirect outcomes of the latest surge,” the Smithsonian said in a statement. “Over the last few days, the Smithsonian has seen an increase in positive covid cases and associated quarantine periods among our essential and operational staff.”

The National Museum of African Art, the National Postal Museum, the Anacostia Community Museum and the National Museum of Asian Art will be closed beginning Wednesday and are scheduled to reopen January 3. 

The Smithsonian said it “strives to keep as many of our museums open to the public as possible without sacrificing the health and safety of our visitors and staff.” The temporary closures, it said, will allow staff to be reallocated in order to help keep other museums open for the week. 

At Smithsonian museums that do remain open, visitors aged 2 and older are required to wear face masks while indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, under the museum’s COVID protocols

The announcement comes amid an increase in COVID cases in the District of Columbia as the Omicron variant quickly spreads throughout the nation. According to Patrick Ashley, senior deputy director at DC Health, the city has reported a rising case rate but lower hospitalization rate compared to a month ago.

He urged residents to get fully vaccinated and get a booster shot to help stop the spread of COVID. 

“We know that being boosted, fully vaccinated and boosted, is the primary way to prevent you from any severe illness or death,” Ashley said at a COVID briefing Wednesday. “We know that the difference between being boosted versus unvaccinated is you’re 10 times more likely to become infected and 20 times more likely to die.”