Mid-South attractions adjust to new Shelby Co. health directive

Memphis Zoo and Botanic Gardens make adjustments for health directive

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Shelby County’s latest health directive has caused attractions in Memphis to make changes, leading some even to close their doors completely.

The Memphis Zoo is one place people will need to cross off their list as one of the places to visit. “The health department asked us to close our doors because of the new stay-at-home directive,” said Nick Harmeier, the Memphis Zoo’s Chief Marketing Officer.

Health directive 16 aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus after the holidays when many traveled and took part in family gatherings.

Harmeier said while they were open in 2020, they enforced restrictions for visitors: requiring masks and reminding them to stay socially distant. But, he understands why the health department has put more restrictions in place.

“It’s a tough decision for them too, but they specifically said that they’re trying to encourage people to stay at home and we’re looked at as an entertainment piece for people,” he explained.

Though visitors will not be allowed, employees will still continue operations which costs 16,000 dollars a day for the zoo.

Harmeier is not sure when they will reopen, but says it is possible once the health directive ends on Jan. 22.

“We’re just going to wait on the health department to tell us when we can go back to business,” said Harmeier.

The Memphis Botanic Garden is an outdoor escape that will be remaining open.

“We have 96 acres, so there’s plenty of room to get social distance out there. You might not see another family in all of that space,” said Mary Helen Butler, the Assistant Director of the Memphis Botanic Garden.

Butler explained that office staff is working from home.

Visitors are asked to wear masks and use contactless payments.

“All you have to do is hold up your phone to walk right through,” she explained

The Botanic Garden did have to cancel and push back some holiday celebrations this winter. They hope things will pick back up in the spring.

“Getting back to normal is what everyone is hoping for, right?” said Butler.

The Memphis Zoo is taking donations to support daily operations. You can learn more about donating here: https://www.memphiszoo.org/donate

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