After being closed for nearly two years, the Massachusetts State House opened its doors to the public Tuesday.
The building has been largely closed to all but lawmakers, State House staffers and reporters since the start of the pandemic in Massachusetts in March 2020.
The building has been closed to the public for more than 700 days, far longer than nearly any other state capitol during the pandemic.
The public was again able to enter the building starting Tuesday. Masks are required, as well as proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test from no more than one day before entry.
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The Tuesday morning reopening was a muted affair with mostly building regulars flocking back to be beneath the golden dome.
"I do lobbying work for the Disabled American Veterans Massachusetts and I want to pop up to the office and say hello to the staff. We got extra funding in this year's budget, so I just want to thank them for the work they did," Rick Branca, a lobbyist for The Malloy Group who was the first person to enter the State House at 9 a.m. Tuesday, told reporters.
Only the Ashburton Park entrance is open to the public and a small white tent has been erected outside the building for one House court officer and one Senate court officer to check vaccination status or test results for visitors. Building security is about the same as it was two years ago, with Department of Conservation and Recreation rangers manning the usual metal detector and X-ray machine inside the building lobby.
The plan to welcome back the public comes as a COVID-19 surge driven by the highly contagious omicron variant subsides. Lawmakers had come under criticism for keeping the building closed to the public for so long.
In December, the Massachusetts House began requiring State House employees to show that they had been vaccinated; received a qualifying disability or medical condition; or received an accommodation due to a sincerely held religious belief to enter the building.
State House News Service contributed to this report.
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