Museums get the green light to reopen; some hesitant to begin offering tours

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement of a Phase 2.5 of reopening Tuesday came as a surprise to the CEO of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting us to reopen until the end of the year,” John Swaine said.

He explained Wednesday that the announcement first brought relief, then concern.

The museum lost an estimated $500,000 during closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Swaine wants to reopen, but says he has been monitoring clusters at North Carolina universities and is hesitant to open the doors.

He said several staff members are retired educators and considered part of the population most vulnerable to the virus.

“Many of them, if they get sick with COVID, it suspends our entire operation. So I’m having to take that into consideration from day one, and I don’t want anybody here to get remotely ill,” he said.

The museum will launch virtual interactive tours this weekend and in several weeks they plan to start sit-down tours in person.

“We can bring in about 30-40 people in the auditorium, and conduct the same tour on stage, and still social distance people,” Swaine said.

Swaine said he wants people to feel safe, while serving and educating the community.

“During this time, it’s quite critical, with the movement for Black lives, and the protests that we’re seeing, an institution like this can be powerful institution to help people understand what’s really going on,” he said.

When the museum does reopen, the center will request visitors wear face coverings.

The Greensboro Children’s Museum plans to reopen Saturday. The executive director said the museum will schedule play sessions, and can be reserved online, limited to 150 people.

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