Most of Arlington National Cemetery, including the iconic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and former President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, will be fully opened in time for Memorial Day, officials said Tuesday.
The changes are the latest in what have been a gradual easing of strict restrictions that were imposed on visitors and family members at the famed military burial ground because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Visitor screening will still be conducted either inside or outside the welcome center. But masks are no longer required when outdoors.
“Over the last year, it was important we continued to uphold Arlington’s sacred mission of laying our nation’s veterans to rest. We are very happy that families and visitors are able to have a full visitor’s experience to ‘Honor, Remember and Explore,’” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of the Office of Army National Cemeteries.
Officials at Arlington said they continue to follow the most up-to-date CDC guidelines and Department of Defense regulations to protect those visiting the grounds.
Arlington National Cemetery “is a safe environment and we are pleased COVID conditions have improved enough that we may fully reopen to the public,” said cemetery Superintendent Charles “Ray” Alexander Jr.
On Memorial Day, President Biden is expected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and give an address at the Amphitheater. While there will be obvious security restrictions at that time, cemetery officials said the site will be otherwise open to the public.
Face masks are still required at any indoor venue.
The cemetery was established during the Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, the confiscated estate of Confederate commander Robert E. Lee. Officials said more than 400,000 veterans of every U.S. military action since then and their eligible dependents are buried there. The Army administers the cemetery for the Department of Defense.
The cemetery’s bookstore is open to the public, but the Memorial Amphitheater bowl remains closed for restoration work, officials said.
Getting there will be easier because the Arlington National Cemetery Metro stop is now reopened to the public, officials said.