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"Is Seeing That Renoir Essential? In the Pandemic, Cities Differ"

The New York Times interviewed Anne Rimoin, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of epidemiology and director of the UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health, about the risks of infection inherent in having museums being open to the public

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

On a recent afternoon outside the Art Institute of Chicago, there was no trace of the line that typically snakes down the museum’s granite steps and along Michigan Avenue as visitors wait to enter the grand home of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.” Every so often a passer-by paused on the desolate sidewalk to take a selfie with one of the bronze lions guarding the museum, but there was no reason to go further: The doors were locked.

In New York, a strikingly different tableau was playing out on Fifth Avenue outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One of the front doors was propped open to welcome a steady stream of visitors; teenagers sat in chatty clusters on the front steps; couples and families paused for temperature checks before entering the bustling lobby.

The contrasting scenes illustrate the diverging approaches that cities, states and individual institutions have taken toward museumgoing at this stage of the pandemic. Museums in New York City, which is now reporting a higher positivity rate than Chicago, have been allowed to operate without interruption at reduced capacities since they reopened in August — while Chicago’s museums were forced into hibernation for two months starting in mid-November, only recently getting the green light to reopen.