Two of Chicago's most iconic cultural institutions are set to close under Illinois' new Tier 3 coronavirus mitigations.
The Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry will both temporarily close to the public this week after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday that the state will be under heightened restrictions requiring indoor museums and attractions to close in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The Museum of Science and Industry will close beginning Thursday, the institution said in a statement posted on social media.
"We were so excited to share the holidays with you, however we must do our part to ensure the spread of this disease does not get worse," the statement reads.
"We will be working hard from home to bring you engaging science content through our website and social channels, and we have several free resources for you to explore," the statement continued, highlighting free educational tools, activities and resources on the museum's website.
MSI said anyone with tickets to the museum during the closure will be refunded automatically. It was not immediately clear when the museum planned to reopen.
The Field Museum will be closed Friday through at least Dec. 4.
“Our first priority is always the safety of our visitors and staff, and as a scientific institution, we are closely heeding the advice of medical and public health experts,” the museum's President Julian Siggers said in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Shedd Aquarium also announced plans to close for the remainder of the year as coronavirus mitigations continue to heighten across Chicago and the state.
"As city and statewide COVID mitigation efforts continue, Shedd Aquarium has decided to voluntarily close through the new year as part of a commitment to the health and safety of the community," a spokesperson for the aquarium said in a statement.
The aquarium aims to reopen by Jan. 2, officials said.
“Although we continue to be a safe place to work and visit due to limited capacity attendance, facial covering mandate and rigorous social distancing protocols, we are taking this action proactively for the positive influence it may have for all,” Shedd President and CEO Bridget Coughlin said in a statement.
“While the aquarium’s doors may physically close, Shedd’s mission has never been more alive and open. We remain committed to creating meaningful moments of learning, joy, engagement, and respite and to do our part to continue to support the recovery and healing of our city and state.”
Essential staff will continue to care for the aquarium's 32,000 animals and maintain the facility, the aquarium said. Employees who can work from home will do so, officials said.
"Shedd is committed to continuing to pay all staff. Those employees, such as guest relations staff, who do not have the option to work from home will be still be compensated for a similar duration of the initial closure should this second closure last as long," a release from the aquarium read. "Many guest relations staff will be provided career development during the closure including taking online Spanish courses and learning more about marine biology."
Meanwhile, the Shedd said it will offer digital programs "that encourage discovery and bring guests eye-to-eye with animals from the comfort and safety of their homes."
Pritzker announced the heightened mitigations Tuesday, slated to take effect Friday.
Among the new restrictions, gaming and casino facilities will be required to close as will indoor recreation facilities, theaters and museums, though outdoor activities will be allowed to continue with limited capacities.
The governor's announcement came as state health officials reported 12,601 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Tuesday and 97 additional deaths, along with a record number of hospitalizations.
The state saw its hospitalization numbers jump Tuesday with 5,887 residents currently in hospitals due to coronavirus-like illnesses, an increase of more than 300 patients in the last 24 hours. Of those patients, 1,158 are currently in intensive care units, and 545 are on ventilators, also marking increases for both.
All three statistics are the highest metrics the state has seen in their respective categories since the first peak in COVID-19 cases earlier this year
Illinois previously reached its hospitalization peak roughly six months ago, but as the state's latest wave lifts the number of average patients in Illinois facilities well above 5,000, the state is seeing record numbers.
As of Monday, Illinois was averaging more than 5,200 coronavirus patients in state hospitals, a number that is 400 more individuals than the spring high, and a 70 percent increase in the last two weeks alone, Pritzker said.