AUSTIN — The Texas Capitol, shuttered to the public since the coronavirus pandemic took root in March, reopened Monday with protocols in place aimed at minimizing the risk for new infections.
“At this time, a mask worn over the nose and mouth is required at all times inside the building,” said an online message from the State Preservation Board, the agency that operates the buildings in the Capitol complex in the heart of Austin.
The state will also provide no-cost COVID-19 testing for anyone who wishes it before they enter the building. Also, capacity will be limited and social distancing is required. Only one of the four public entrances will be open.
Before the building was officially reopened, a large tent was erected outside the entrance on the Capitol’s north side to administer tests. Only a few visitors stopped by during the first hour of operation.
Asked whether a there was a line waiting for the doors to open, Preservation Board director Rod Welch gestured toward a smattering of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers outside the tent.
“Just what you see here,” he said.
It was equally quiet inside the cavernous building. Many legislative offices remained closed and the House and Senate chambers were still off limits. The doors to the Capitol’s cafeteria, which normally bustles with staff members, lobbyists and visitors during extended hours for breakfast and lunch, were locked and the room was empty.
The reopening comes just eight days before the start of the 2021 legislative session. Typically the launch of a new legislative session, which happens each January in odd-numbered years and lasts only 140 days, means the Capitol is jammed with teams of lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists, reporters and visitors.
The galleries of both legislative chambers are also filled to capacity during the ceremony-packed first day.
This year, with the pandemic still raging, things will likely be much different. Entry to the chambers will be limited. So will be the number of dignitaries and lawmakers’ family members on the House and Senate floor.
Source: Caller Times