Less than a week after making indoor spaces off limits to the public, the Chicago Zoological Society announced Wednesday that it would temporarily close Brookfield Zoo effective March 19 through the end of April.
The action comes as more and more businesses and attractions have shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19. Some municipalities, like Oak Park and River Forest, have declared states of emergency.
Also on Wednesday, Oak Park’s mayor issued a shelter-in-place order, directing residents to stay home except for people employed in essential services, after it was revealed an Oak Park resident had tested positive for te disease.
“The health and safety of our guests, volunteers, staff and animals is of paramount importance,” said Stuart Strahl, president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society in a press release. “We have been extremely diligent in communicating to staff the most recent updates from health officials, increased the strength of disinfectants used within the park to hospital grade, posted signage reminding guests and staff of proper hygiene and social distancing, suspended staff travel, and instructed employees to stay home if they were not feeling well. As the situation has progressed, we have a responsibility to do our part to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.”
According to the press release, essential specialists and veterinary staff will continue working during the shutdown to care for animals in the zoo’s collection. Some employees essential to operating and maintaining zoo buildings will also report to work. Everyone else is being asked to work remotely.
Since March 14, the zoo’s outdoor grounds and exhibits were open to the public free of charge, except for parking fees. Indoor exhibits, restaurants and gift shops had been closed.
According to the press release, “Staff will continue to monitor and evaluate developments on a daily basis in order to establish an appropriate date for reopening the zoo’s facilities to the public.”
During its nearly century-long existence, Brookfield Zoo has been open seven days a week and has closed for just a handful of days after extraordinary weather events. This will mark the longest amount of time the zoo has ever closed its doors to the public.