letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: California Academy of Sciences in the COVID-19 Era

Editor:

Like many places, the California Academy of Sciences is closed temporarily. However, you can still stay in touch with us with Academy @ Home! Whether you’re searching for STEM activities for the kids or just want to keep tabs on your favorite Academy creatures, we’ve curated an eclectic array of science-centric games, videos, and DIY projects to help you stay engaged, wherever you are.

Due to COVID-19 , we closed our doors to the public on March 13, acting in an abundance of caution with the safety of our staff and visitors as our top priority. Early preparation allowed us to get a jump on planning, preparing and obtaining supplies to keep our staff, visitors, and building safe in response to COVID-19.

With this head start, we were able to donate some Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Kaiser Permanente and Self-Help for the Elderly.

Since we’ve been closed, we have about 40 staff members working on-site daily, safely performing essential functions to keep our 40,000 animals alive and healthy and our building operating securely. To help support our staff who continue to work on-site stay safe, we’ve also been providing lunch daily, which reduces their circulation out in public. This also allows us to cater from local restaurants, helping support businesses, especially in the Sunset and the Richmond districts.

A majority of our museum staff have been working from home, and they’ve been very busy. Our education and technology teams have doubled down on providing free online science learning workshops for the City’s childcare centers serving first responders, as well as online learning for local public schools. We have also continued to expand our free, online offerings to the public .

As we plan for reopening in the future, we will continue to closely follow local and state public health guidelines to inform our approach. We look forward to welcoming visitors back through our doors again and our top priority is to ensure we provide the safest experience possible.

Museums are viewed as some of the world’s most trusted institutions. We seek to honor that trust by working hard to keep our employees and our visitors safe. Once we’re able to safely reopen our doors, we plan to do so in three phases, all guided by science and public health.

Phase 1 will see very limited capacity and closure of high-touch exhibits and inherently crowded areas. Phase 2 will see the full Academy open with social distancing. Phase 3 will hopefully see us fully open with little or no restrictions on interactions, which we recognize will likely take some time.

Being an institution of science, we’re looking closely at our building and exhibits to ensure we can provide ample space for recommended, safe social distancing while still providing a fun, educational experience.

We are also fortunate for the expertise and guidance of the Academy’s Chief of Science, Shannon Bennett, Ph.D. , an infectious disease virologist. She helps us understand and put into practice public health mandates, as well as helping educate Academy staff on the science behind COVID-19.

In addition to the safety of all who come through our doors, our priority continues to be equitable accessibility. The California Academy of Sciences, as well as Golden Gate Park, is a resource for the entire Bay Area community, not just those who live close by or who are physically able to walk, run, or ride a bike as I get to do. The elderly, families with young children, as well as communities for whom transit or cycling is not a practical option are equally important.

We are truly grateful to the community for supporting the work of the California Academy of Sciences. We are strongly convinced that our mission is all the more vital in the emerging post-COVID world.

Ike Kwon
Chief Operating Officer & Head of Government Affairs
California Academy of Sciences

Twitter: @IkeKwon

Ike Kwon lives in the Outer Sunset with his wife, two daughters and mother.

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