REGION — San Diego County officials ordered the shutdown of indoor operations for a number of businesses starting Tuesday, including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, museums and zoos. The San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park will remain open, however, saying that the order applies to indoor zoos, not outdoor ones.
The move comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that San Diego County was officially added to California’s “monitoring list,” joining 22 other counties in the state who are on the list.
Newsom said at his Monday news conference that he expected local health officials in each of the newly added counties to issue an order enacting the measures, which are expected to remain in effect for at least three weeks.
San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido reopened to the public on June 20 after a three-month shutdown due to COVID-19. Rick Schwartz, spokesperson and ambassador for the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, told The Coast News that they will remain open as the order technically doesn’t apply to them.
“We try to look at every option. If we have to close again, well then it happens, we’ll be ready,” Schwartz said. “As a citizen of this state and this country, we can look around us and recognize that what was happening last week is different than this week, and to try and assume we don’t need to prepare for all options would be a bad idea.”
The Zoo and Safari Park have implemented safety measures for guests including health screening areas, social distancing markings, face mask requirements, an online ticket system and reduced capacity.
Both are now operating at below 50% of normal capacity — no more than 5,000 people at the Zoo or 3,000 at the Safari Park at a given time. Furthermore, the Zoo has suspended bus tours and the Safari Park has suspended tram tours to maintain social distancing.
Schwartz added that plexiglass has been installed to serve as a barrier between the animals and the guests because some species can possibly receive a version of the coronavirus.
During the closures, the Zoo and the Safari Park kept essential staff to take care of the animals and the plants, some of which are endangered species. Others were furloughed a few weeks into the closures, but Schwartz said they have and are continuing to bring back all furloughed employees.
“When we were still closed, the support we got from the community was amazing. Our member base and the community at large started reaching out to us to check in and make sure everything was OK,” Schwartz said. “People were donating money to us in a time where many of them were getting furloughed. That means so much to us and it speaks wonderfully to our community.”
Schwartz added that he’s glad that the community can see the animals once again, but that it must be done safely and responsibly if they want it to continue.
Those planning to visit the Zoo or Safari Park are advised to visit sandiegozoo.org/reopen beforehand.