Point Defiance reopens its aquariums

VIDEO: Point Defiance reopens its aquariums

TACOMA, Wash. — Divers were putting the finishing touches on displays inside the aquarium, getting them ready for the long-awaited reopening.

After more than 100 days, two aquariums at Point Defiance remained closed even after the zoo opened to allow families to take in the outside exhibits. Now indoor venues are also reopening with added safety measures.

People walking through the aquariums will have to follow a path to limit the number of people in a single area, and hand -sanitizing stations are plentiful.

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“All of the exhibitory now has stanchions in front of it, so we’re trying to lessen any touch point that you might have throughout the aquarium,” said Alan Varsik, director of the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.

The reopening comes as Pierce County sees a spike in new COVID-19 cases. Since moving to phase 2 of the governor's Safe Start reopening plan, the number of diagnosed cases over a two -week period has jumped.

“Pretty much since the middle of the month, we’ve been on a straight -line increase in terms of our 14 -day rolling average of cases,” said Tacoma Pierce County Health Department Director Dr. Anthony Chen. “Any activity now is a potential risk for infection.

Chen says indoor venues create greater risk but that safety precautions, such as masks and face coverings, help reduce the risk. And you have to wear them at the zoo.

“We’re requiring the masks be worn during your visit here at the zoo,” said Varsik.

Chen says if the spike continued moving upward, Pierce County wouldn't be able to move to phase 3 and could be forced back to the more restrictive phase 1 of the state's reopening plan.

“The secretary of health has the authority to move counties backwards,” said Chen. “We’re hoping that he will not do so.”

But if that happens, “for the zoo, it means we’ll be closing our door again,” said Varsik.

The aquariums are scheduled to open Wednesday, July 1. Tickets have to be purchased in advance online at https://www.pdza.org/, and visitors are given appointments for their trip.