The clock ran out for the U.S. Congress to agree on a budget bill and avoid a federal government shutdown. In addition to furloughs keeping thousands of government workers from their jobs, the shutdown will have wide consequences for the country's science, innovation and health.
From a panda cam gone dark and national park visitors getting the boot, to a halt on the government's flu program, here's a look at six ways the shutdown will impact science.
1. Parks and zoos
National parks and Smithsonian institutions, including the museum and Smithsonian's National Zoo, will be closed. Plans to visit any of the 401 national parks, which cover an area of more than 84 million acres (34 million hectares), to watch the fall leaves change color or zoo trips to spy on the lions, tigers and bears will be quashed. For those already at the parks, such as Yosemite National Park, the Statue of Liberty and Golden Gate National Recreation Area, daily visitors are expected to get an immediate boot from the park, and officials are giving overnight visitors 48 hours to leave.
But there's no need to worry about the zoo animals, as keepers will be on the clock regardless of the shutdown. "The only federal employees that can work are the exempted or previously approved, which includes security, maintenance and the Zoo employees that are responsible for the care of the animals," said Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, as quoted by the Washington Post. You may not be able to get your daily dose of cub cuteness, though; the zoo's panda cam has gone dark due to the shutdown, so no watching the adorable giant panda cub born to Mei Xiang on Aug. 23.
"The cams (incl. the panda cams) require federal resources, especially staff, to run. They have not been deemed essential during a
#shutdown," the Zoo tweeted Monday (Sept. 30).
2. Health agencies
The government shutdown will affect the nation's health agencies. The Department of Health and Human Services — which includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and a number of other agencies and offices —will furlough 52 percent of its staff, or 40,512 people, the department said.
A number of agencies' websites may not be updated, and so they may contain out-of-date information.
The CDC "will continue minimal support to protect the health and well-being of U.S. citizens here and abroad through a significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations, processing of laboratory samples, and maintaining the agency's 24/7 emergency operations center," according to an HHS document. The agency will retain just 4,071 of its staff of 12,825 people. It will not be able to monitor current flu activity, or link outbreak information across states.
In addition, the agency's ability to prepare a response to emerging outbreaks, including the H7N9 flu outbreak or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak "could be delayed," HHS said. [The 13 Oddest Medical Case Reports]
The NIH will continue to care for patients at NIH Clinical Centers, but will not accept new patients. The agency will provide "minimal support" for animal care services, but will "discontinue some veterinary services," the HHS said.
The NIH will not be able to take actions on grant applications. The NIH-supported PubMed, which comprises more than 23 million citations for biomedical literature, will be maintained with minimal staff during the shutdown, according to the website.
The FDA "will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities," HHS said. The agency will not be able to carry out a number of safety activities, including routine established inspections, monitoring of imports, and "the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision."