The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden decided to close its gates on Sunday, March 15 for the safety of its staff and the public during the current COVID-19 outbreak. And it has remained closed to the public ever since.
But during a press conference today, Zoo Director Thane Maynard outlined the institution's plan for reopening.
While there is no set date to let guests to return, Maynard says the Cincinnati Zoo is ready to go as soon as Gov. DeWine gives them the OK.
Here is the reopening plan Maynard outlined.
The first week the zoo is open will be dedicated to members only. After that, everyone must purchase a timed ticket in advance. That means you buy a ticket to arrive at 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., etc. Members must also pick their arrival time.
Tickets are timed by the half-hour and the zoo assumes guests will stay for two hours.
Maynard said there will be an initial reduction in allotted visitors of about 75%. He said a typical weekend day might see around 10,000 visitors, so that daily number will decrease to around 2,000 or 2,500 guests. If that goes well, the zoo will reevaluate and increase attendance.
Maynard said the zoo spans 80 acres and there will be markers on the ground to encourage and remind guests to maintain social distance.
"The zoo will be an outdoor experience largely," Maynard says. "To begin with, our indoor exhibits…will be closed." That means attractions like the manatee building, the Night Hunters, the World of the Insect, etc.
Zoo staff and volunteers will also be wearing masks and visitors are encouraged to wear them as well.
"It’s basically a sneeze guard, like if you go to a salad bar," Maynard says.
The zoo will also set up hand sanitizing machines and other hand washing options throughout.
The goal is to have as much of a touchless experience as possible, so there will also be no stroller or wheelchair rentals at the beginning of reopening.
The zoo is closing its solar lot for the time being and asking visitors to park on the street lot and use the pedestrian entrance on Erkenbrecher Avenue to avoid high-touch areas in the traditional entrance like the escalators and elevator.
The indoor restaurant, train and carousel will also be closed for the time being. But the food trucks and Hops beer garden will be open.
In a press release at the end of March, the zoo said it would lose millions of dollars each month it had to remain closed without the money it garners from admission, food sales, parking, rides and more. More than 1.8 million visitors come to the zoo each year producing a $143 million impact; March and April tend to be the biggest months for the zoo.