Credit: DNAinfo Chicago

DOWNTOWN — To help contain the spread of the coronavirus, on Saturday city officials closed access to The Bean, which is most visited tourist site in the Midwest.

In a tweet put out Saturday afternoon, Millennium Park officials said while the park remains open, Cloud Gate Plaza would be closed and all events and programs are cancelled through April 12. They advised the public to check the Chicago Department of Public Health’s website for updates.

Though locals call it The Bean, the sculpture is actually named Cloud Gate. The large silver bean-like sculpture designed by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor, sits in the center of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park. It attracts crowds and is always coated with handprints — the sort of things being frowned upon during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Formally dedicated in 2006, the sculpture was inspired by liquid mercury. It is 66 feet long, 33 feet high and weights 110 tons.

In 2016, it overtook Navy Pier as the most visited tourist attraction in the Midwest. That year, almost 13 million people visited the sculpture between June and December whereas about 9.3  million visited Navy Pier the entire year before. The city counted Bean visitors by utilizing electronic sensors that tracked cell phone pings. 

Kapoor named his artwork Cloud Gate because the sculpture’s 12-foot arch, or curved underside, serves as an entrance that visitors can walk under to enter the park. Its polished surface, which makes the sculpture appear seamless, also invites visitors to touch the surface, which can be dangerous during the current pandemic. 

Additionally, visitors to Cloud Gate can observe their own reflection and the reflection of Chicago’s skyline, giving it an interactive quality.

On Saturday, the total of novel coronavirus cases in the state had risen to 66, which included people who have already recovered, the state announced.

RELATED: Coronavirus In Chicago: Governor Begs St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Revelers To ‘Please Go Home’

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