Philadelphia museums knocked back down by new COVID-19 restrictions

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The new restrictions put in place to tackle the surge of COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia are hitting museums in the area hard. After going through a five-month shutdown during the first wave, they are being shut down again, which in some cases, will cause hard economic pain and uncertainty for employees.

"The loss of our revenue is just hard to exaggerate. It is really going to be difficult for us," said Sean Kelley, senior vice president at Eastern State Penitentiary.

For 26 years now, Eastern State Penitentiary has been one of Philadelphia's popular tourist attractions. But the pandemic changed everything, including forcing the cancelation of the popular Halloween attraction, "Terror Behind the Walls."

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It was supposed to be the time businesses could make up for lost revenue, but the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions in Philadelphia have derailed those plans.

After having to lay off over 100 employees, they had reopened with a staff of about 30 in mid-August.

"And we were selling our tickets out every day with just a handful of people left here in the staff. But this final kick of losing the holiday season is hard to exaggerate how difficult that's going to be for us financially," said Kelley.

The National Constitution Center, the Barnes Foundation, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University also announced shutdowns due to the new restrictions.

"We're missing all of our members and our friends here in the galleries, but we know that everybody is safer at home right now," said Niki Ciccotelli Stewart of the Academy of Natural Sciences.

At Eastern State Penitentiary, they are still trying to figure out if they can get by for six weeks without laying anyone off.

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Pennsylvania is working to curb the sharp increase in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations by issuing strict testing guidelines.

The Academy of Natural Sciences said it has no plans to lay off any employees at this time.

"We've got a nice balance of income in our general plan both contributed and earned. But we're also part of Drexel University," said Stewart.

The restrictions will also continue to hit the performing arts hard.

"Our colleagues in the performing arts have been dealing with this, they never re-opened. They've been in trouble all along. It's a hard year," said Kelley.

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