By James Anderson, The Associated Press
A Colorado children’s museum is the latest casualty of harassment by people angry over mask mandates designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, for decades a popular downtown attraction primarily devoted to those age 8 and under, temporarily closed on Wednesday because of escalating harassment of staff by adult visitors angry over a mandate requiring anyone age 2 and older to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
“We know the stress of the last two years has taken a toll on everyone in our community, but regrettably some guests who object to the Museum’s mask policy have been inappropriately directing their anger toward our staff,” the museum said in a statement announcing the closure, which began Wednesday.
Its doors will stay closed until Feb. 4 to give staff members a break and to evaluate how the museum can respond to aggression by visitors in the future, the statement said.
“To our members and guests who respect our mask policy and cooperate with out staff, thank you. We are sorry that the unacceptable behavior of others means you cannot enjoy the Museum at this time.”
The closure was first reported by Denverite.
Museum President and CEO Michael Yankovich declined to elaborate on the incidents targeting staff. But in an emailed statement he said they have been “demoralizing and ever-increasing in their intensity and frequency.” He thanked supporters from around the country for rallying behind the museum’s workers.
The museum says it is following a city of Denver mask mandate requiring guests age 2 and older to wear masks without regard to vaccination status. Citing the high number of COVID-19 cases, it said it was not accepting medical exemptions for the time being.
Mask-wearing is optional when seated at tables inside the museum and in its outdoor park.
The museum offers hands-on, interactive exhibits for kids and their parents that include an art studio and a mock fire station. Annual attendance reached an all-time high of 611,000 before the pandemic but has since been about 84,000 because of capacity restrictions and reduced hours of operation, said Associate Director of Marketing and Communications Kimber Kuhl.
Across the country, anti-vaccine and anti-mask demonstrations and individual behavior often have taken scary and violent turns. Frequently the assailants are parents. Educators, medical professionals, private-sector workers and public figures have been vilified.