ST. LOUIS — The Saint Louis Zoo announced it will reopen on Saturday, June 13, with several changes to admission and attractions.
"We want our guests to be safe, we want our staff to be safe and we want our animals to be safe," Director Michael Macek said.
Attendance will be limited to one-third of the zoo's normal capacity, Macek said.
That still allows for 3,000 people in the zoo at a time, but people will be required to make free reservations in advance, starting at 9 a.m. on June 8.
Visitors older than 9 will be required to wear masks, unless a medical reason prevents it. Guests will be allowed to remove or lower their masks when “practicing good social distancing of 6 feet” or when eating or drinking.
"We know that this is the most important thing that you can use if you come. If I wear it, I'm keeping you safe. If you wear it, you're keeping me safe. If we all follow the rules, everybody's going to benefit. If we don't, there will be consequences and that could be meaning the zoo will have to close again," Macek said.
The age cutoff for who should wear masks was based on a recommendation from the St. Louis health department, Macek said.
A health department spokesman said several factors contributed to that recommendation.
Younger children may not be developmentally capable of wearing a mask without touching it or their face, or they may be unable to remove it safely without assistance.
Also, children 9 and above have more fully developed respiratory systems and would be less likely to suffer from complications associated with wearing a mask, the spokesman said.
Even with added precautions, at least three attractions will not reopen when the zoo does: the 4D Theater, the Insectarium and the Penguin and Puffin Coast.
The penguin exhibit often attracts long lines.
"And the path is relatively small, so for the first phase of opening, it's going to remain closed," Macek said.
Macek said a zoo task force has spent four to five weeks developing the plan to reopen. He even consulted with a zoo in Hong Kong, which is ahead of the U.S. in the pandemic and reopening timeline.
As for the animals in St. Louis, they've have noticed the change, Macek said.
"It's a form of enrichment for them, and I suspect they'll find it very engaging when our guests are back," he said.
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