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Arlington Cemetery closes to general public through Memorial Day weekend

Photo of flags at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 17, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley/TNS)
May 21, 2020

Arlington National Cemetery will be closed to the public throughout Memorial Day weekend, officials said on Friday.

There will be restricted access for family pass holders, as well as family members of those interred at the cemetery. However, family members of those interred there will be limited to gravesite visits only, and touring other sites will not be allowed, according to the announcement.

The cemetery has been closed to the public since March 13 with access limited to family pass holders. People still interested in seeing the cemetery will still be able to do so virtually in a multi-media virtual visitation, which will be distributed on either the cemetery’s website or on social media.

“We are expecting several thousand family pass holders to visit their loved ones graves this Memorial Day weekend,” the cemetery’s superintendent, Charles “Ray” Alexander, Jr., said in a statement. “Protecting the health of our employees, service members, contractors and our visitors is paramount. Arlington National Cemetery continues to monitor health and safety conditions and will promptly inform the public with any updates or changes to our operating status. Resuming more routine operations will be deliberate and conditions based as we abide by DOD regulations and CDC guidelines.”

During the novel coronavirus pandemic, allowing general public access could pose an increased health risk. COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has so far infected almost 4.8 million people across the globe, with nearly 1.5 million of the cases in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins’ latest tracking data.

The Memorial Avenue gate will be the only gate open to family pass holders. Family pass holders are required to have proof of pass and will be asked by security to show proof of possessing a face mask. Anyone who enters the cemetery must wear the face mask in restrooms and at all other times while in the cemetery when they are unable to remain six feet away from each other, according to the announcement.

Additionally, people will not be able to visit other historic locations throughout the cemetery, which includes the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame and other locations.

“Memorial Day began at Arlington National Cemetery, known as Decoration Day, in May of 1868. For 152 years, the American public has come to know Arlington National Cemetery as the place to remember those who sacrificed many times before us and those who will make the sacrifice in the future,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director, Office of Army Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery. “During this holiday and every day, Arlington National Cemetery represents the American people for past, present and future generations by laying to rest those few who have served our nation with dignity and honor, while immersing guests in the cemetery’s living history.”