John Ball Zoo reopens this weekend with COVID-19 protocols

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Excitement is building as silence lingers at John Ball Zoo while workers prepare to reopen in the middle of pandemic.

The doors of the zoo open at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

“The way we’ll operate is very similar to the way we closed the season last year,” John Ball Zoo CEO Peter D’Arienzo said.

Following guidance from the state, D’Arienzo said his staff will require guests ages 5 and above to wear a mask at all times. That rule is outlined in signs posted around the facility and will be enforced during operations.

“We also received a lot of feedback that face masks shouldn’t be required,” D’Arienzo said. “We’re not medical professionals, so we follow what the requirements of the state are.”

D’Arienzo added that guests will not be able to walk around the premises eating and drinking, since that requires them to lower their masks. Instead, he said they must sit at a table, which will be socially distanced from others.

“Things change rapidly, and what’s a requirement this week could literally be a different requirement next week,” D’Arienzo said.

The zoo will also be equipped with hand sanitizer and washing stations, as well as staff members who will ensure guests keep a 6-foot distance when viewing animals.

Though the restrictions aren’t ideal for the industry, D’Arienzo said they’re the safest way to keep the gates open. It’s an attitude that’s fueled his desire to get vaccinated.

“For community health, I’m trying to do my part, so that we can stop the spread of the virus,” D’Arienzo said.

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