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The zoo will reopen on June 8 but only to zoo members and only with reservations. With a capacity of 1,000, the zoo will only allow at most 500 guests at a time on the grounds itself.
The policies will ensure that the number of visitors meets state-mandated restrictions, but in combination with the summer weather, those policies have gotten backlash from would-be visitors.
“I guess we will see how many people pass out when its 95° out and nice and humid. I guess I will continue to support other zoos that do not require a mask,” wrote one commenter on Facebook.
Zoo officials responded to the criticism on Thursday, saying in a statement that the concern is that “several exotic animal species” may be vulnerable to the disease.
“We made the mask decision after careful consideration and consulting with officials and health experts. We are also doing our part to follow current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As recommendations change, adjustments will be made accordingly,” read the statement, posted to Facebook.
The zoo further noted a few exceptions, including, for example, those who are unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition or are not within 6 feet of a person or animal.
The response has appeased some who simply wanted clarification, but it did not fully win over critics.
“Asking people to wear masks outside is untenable. Asking small children to wear mask is not acceptable,” a commenter posted. “I would happily wear one in an enclosed structure as the govern has asked us all to do.”
Others asked for a refund on membership despite the fact the zoo extended membership for free for three months due to the pandemic.