National Zoo, Smithsonian Museums Plan Reopening

National Zoo, Smithsonian Museums Plan Reopening a cement sign says zoo The sign outside the Ssmithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty)

By Nick Koutsobinas | Sunday, 18 April 2021 07:31 AM

The Smithsonian Institution and National Zoo top officials are eying a reopening in late May or early June so long as COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted as planned, according to The Hill.

Smithsonian spokesperson Alise Fisher anticipates the museums and zoo "will reopen in phases, but at a faster pace than our staggered reopening last year." The reopening will still be met with certain restrictions like mask-wearing and be opened at a limited capacity.

The Smithsonian closed March 14, 2020, due to COVID-19 restrictions but then reopened July 24 when cases declined.

"We certainly don't want to close again. That's worse than not opening in some cases," said Doug Hall with the Smithsonian.

Hall works as the COVID-19 coordinator for the institution. "The numbers went down pretty well in July and we had half of the institution open, and we had done so very safely," Hall said, "no knowledge of any transmission from the public to our staff or public to public during that time."

However, an increase in infection rates prompted that doors would be closed again on Nov. 23, 2020.

Spring marks the busiest time of the year for the institution, where lines can be seen wrapping around the buildings. People from all around come to Washington DC for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said COVID-19 restrictions should be slackening on May 1 and the new rule restrictions will state that museums can open at 50 percent capacity.

"It's different now, but we are looking forward to seeing some more people," said Hall.

Even with outdoor exhibits like the zoo set to open, the institution is following the necessary precautions outlined by the Center for Disease Control. It is also working with officials in the Biden administration.

"The zoo does have public facing staff like all other Smithsonian museums…Those closures have really been for their protections as well as of course for our visitors and the animals that are in the zoo's care," said Fisher.