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Masks, reservations, social distancing: What to know as the Saint Louis Zoo reopens this week

After opening for members, the Saint Louis Zoo opens for all Saturday

ST. LOUIS — Members of the Saint Louis Zoo got to go back inside this week. Coronavirus concerns closed the zoo for months, making only the second unplanned closure in its history. The first time was during the Spanish Flu. 

The zoo will open for all guests, by reservation only, Saturday, June 13. While reservations are now needed, the Saint Louis Zoo is still free.

Click here for a link to the Saint Louis Zoo reservation information page.

"I think most people when you visit the zoo, you'll find it being relatively normal, the way it was before," Director Michael Macek told 5 On Your Side. 

The sea lion show is still on and the sting ray area is open, but with new social distancing protocols. There is limited seating for the sea lion shows. For the ray exhibit, there is designated and numbered interaction spots. 

WATCH: Bears welcome back visitors at Saint Louis Zoo

The zoo has set out multiple hand washing and sanitizing stations. Teams of employees will be in designated areas with kits to clean benches, tables and other surfaces. 

There are now Plexiglas dividers between guests and employees at all food stands and gift shops. There are also dividers between each bench on the train.

"The most important thing, however, are masks," explained Macek. "Masks will be required for all adults, mandated by the city's Department of Health."

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Children under the age of 9 are not required to wear masks at the zoo. People with health reasons are also permitted to go without a mask. 

Employees throughout the zoo will be asking people to adhere to the new mask policy. Masks will be available for purchase in the zoo gift shops. 

To protect their animals from COVID-19 transmission, the zoo has also set up stanchions at the big cats and giraffes. The dividers provide more distance between guests and these species at greater risk for contraction. 

"After three months of being closed, we are hurting," Macek said. "We are not doing furloughs through Aug. 1, but some of the staff have taken pay cuts."

The Saint Louis Zoo depends on city and county tax payer dollars, as well as zoo visitor purchases for revenue. 

"People can support the zoo by eating at one of the many dining options, shopping in the gift shop or making a donation," Macek said.

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