Reopening during a pandemic

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Businesses may be reopening, but COVID-19 is still spreading in communities. However, many organizations that have reopened amid this pandemic have taken precautionary measures to ensure their patrons are safe, and attendance shows those precautions are working.

Both the Great Plains Zoo and the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls shut down and reopened during this pandemic.

Jason Folkerts is the Director of Museums at the Washington Pavilion. He said the Washington Pavilion reopened on June 1.

“I wanted to open up as soon as we could and do it safely. We were shut down for 80 days, but we weren’t idle. We were very active as a museum team in the COVID-19; albeit, many of us from our homes with Zoom and other things. In that process we had a reopening task force,”

The reopening task force organized opening the Washington Pavilion in stages. The organization is currently in Phase Two and will soon shift into Phase Three.

But, no matter the phase, the pavilion in continuing to follow CDC guidelines for being open to the public.

“We put into place great signage, got a sanitation station located on every floor and different locations throughout the museum to be very safe with that. And, we understand, from the get go been very open from the people walking through our doors, members or not, to partner with us. ,”

Folkerts said they are asking their guests to stay six feet apart from other groups and the staff has limited the number of people allowed in the Washington Pavilion at a time.

The pavilion also had record breaking numbers for attendance the past three years. Folkerts said even being in Phase Two, attendance numbers are looking promising.

“I can proudly say, I mean, we’re right where we want to be. The first week was a little slower, to be expected. Ever since then, it’s been three weeks now, we’ve seen a gradual uptick of growth in our museums right where we want to be. I couldn’t be more pleased with that. And, yesterday we had our best day yet,” Folkerts said.

The Great Plains Zoo is also seeing a steady inflow of guests.

Suzie O’Meara Hernes is the interim CEO of the Great Plains Zoo. She said with not as many activities happening in Sioux Falls, not as much tourism is coming in, but they are happy with the amount of foot traffic they are seeing, given the current conditions.

“We’ve been pleased, we’ve been very steady everyday and we’ve been hearing really great response that people feel very comfortable coming to the zoo, so that’s really great for us,” O’Meara Hernes said.

They’re taking precautions for the health and safety of their customers as well.

“We’ve been evolving as we go, so we started out with time ticketing, so we that we can control the number of guests coming through. We did learn that we are able to handle more than we initially thought, so we relaxed some of those elements. However, we still have the ability to give you your tickets online to reduce standing in line,” O’Meara Hernes said.

The zoo also offers online learning and tours if you’d prefer not to go in person. You can find those through their Facebook page.

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