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Aquarium of the Pacific resumes outdoor operations to much applause

The people were happy to be there, and the animals appeared to be glad to have them back

The Aquarium of the Pacific resumed its outdoor operations Saturday, Jan. 30, taking advantage of restrictions relaxed with the city’s announcement Monday to align with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lifting of the state’s regional stay-at-home orders.

Visitors were lined up as the aquarium opened early Saturday, eager to explore the many outdoor exhibits including the Shark Lagoon, June Keyes Penguin Habitat, Lorikeet Forest, the Seals and Sea Lions Habitat, and Moon Jelly Touch Lab.

Masks were required for everyone 2 years of age and older, and all guests got a temperature check before admission.

“We’re so happy to be back here and support the aquarium,” said visitor Michael Deluca. “The sharks in the touch tank even seemed eager to get their pets.”

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Deluca, along with his wife, Vickie, had been coming to the aquarium at least once a month leading up to the shutdown. As a way to offer further support, Deluca says he had upgraded his membership to continue frequenting the facility.

“The animals missed us as much as we missed them,” he added.

The aquarium, which had already adjusted its facility to outdoor operations during the summer and fall months, was more than ready, said chief financial officer Anthony Brown.

“Because we had already been operating outside for months, our staff was ready and trained for the reopening,” Brown said. “We’ve had 100 percent compliance with our visitors so far.”

The reopening also allowed the aquarium to bring back more than 70 furloughed employees. But a return to indoor operations, Brown said, is the main goal for the facility.

“We just can’t offer our guests everything we have to give with just the outdoors,” he said.

Currently, the aquarium has limited the number of visitors to 25 percent of its normal capacity. Advanced timed reservations are required in order to help staff manage traffic flow and ensure social distancing.

Despite the uncertainty of when normal operations could resume, staff and guests alike shared their enthusiasm to be back amongst the aquatic creatures.

“It’s so nice to get back outside and do something fun with the family,” said visitor Stefanie Coleman. “And the animals don’t seem to mind our company either.”

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Source: Orange County Register

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