Tampa, FL (May 12, 2020) – The Florida Aquarium is partnering with Tampa General Hospital to implement new safety protocols to keep guests safe, after temporarily closing to the public on March 16th due to COVID-19. The popular Tampa Bay tourist attraction, whose mission is to entertain, educate and inspire stewardship of the natural environment, will re-open to the Tampa Bay community and beyond this week. The official re-opening to the public with limited capacity is scheduled for Friday, May 15.
“We had developed a comprehensive plan for safely re-opening and safeguarding our guests, staff and animals, but given the seriousness of the virus, we felt it was our responsibility to seek a second opinion and collaborate with the best healthcare experts in the country to review our plans and offer additional guidance,” said Roger Germann, President & CEO of The Florida Aquarium. “That’s why we reached out to Tampa General Hospital, a world-class academic medical center, to help us optimize our plans to safely re-open our doors.”
“Thanks to Tampa General’s infectious disease and infection prevention experts, we have added even more rigorous health and safety safeguards to our operations,” added Germann. “Perhaps most important, partnering with Tampa General Hospital allows us access to their healthcare experts so we can continually adapt our health and safety plans as more is learned about how best to keep everyone safe from the virus.”
The Infection Prevention team from TGH and Infectious Disease physicians from USF Health reviewed the Aquarium’s 20-page re-opening plans and toured the facility several times with the Aquarium’s senior leadership, evaluating every exhibit and habitat of the 250,000 square-foot Aquarium.
“We are proud to support The Florida Aquarium as they re-open to the community. As we all have been affected by this global pandemic, it comes down to keeping people safe. Since Tampa General Hospital is an academic medical center, we have the experts and the clinical infrastructure already in place and ready to go. As we look at long-term efforts to combat COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, it’s our duty to support our community partners. We are truly all in this together,” said John Couris, President & CEO of Tampa General Hospital.
Tampa General's team of infectious disease and infection prevention experts provided the Aquarium with additional recommendations of some of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of the virus and protecting the public. “The Florida Aquarium had a very strong and thoughtful re-opening plan that included specific infection prevention measures to keep its patrons safe. Our team provided additional recommendations to provide even more safety precautions,” said Seetha Lakshmi, MD, Tampa General Hospital Epidemiologist and USF Health Assistant Professor of Infectious Disease.
Several of TGH’s additional recommendations that were implemented by the Aquarium include:
- Patrons will be required to wear masks
- An Infection Control Advisory Task Force will be created
- Limit glove use to tasks that require gloves, otherwise emphasize hand hygiene
- Limit use of air hand dryers in bathrooms to prevent spread of possible infection; patrons will use paper towels to dry hands
- Patrons will use every other sink in bathrooms to encourage social distancing
- Additional barriers installed/areas closed to reduce potential touchpoints in certain locations
- Increased spacing between tables to allow for better guest flow
- Monitor elevator use, limiting the number of visitors that use elevator
In addition, the Aquarium is also doing the following to keep visitors safe:
- The Aquarium will limit the number of guests allowed to visit each day
- Hourly capacity is limited to provide for physical distancing
- Online reservations are required to manage capacity limits and minimize touchpoints at the entrance
- Established a one-way flow experience
- The Outdoor Play Space, including the Splash Pad and 4D Theatre, will remain closed
The Florida Aquarium opened its doors, following a nearly two-month shutdown, on Mother’s Day for members only. The sold-out ticket sales allowed for 1,100 guests throughout the day. The current capacity limit set by the state, county and city is 25 percent; however, The Florida Aquarium has taken a measured approach and chose to limit attendance at approximately 13% during the first weeks of re-opening. Today through Thursday, the Aquarium will provide free access to first responders and their families from Tampa Police, Fire and TGH healthcare workers to enjoy. “It’s our way of saying thank you to all the brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our community,” said Germann.
The Florida Aquarium officially opens to the public on Friday, May 15, 2020. More information about how The Florida Aquarium is working to keep guests safe, please visit www.flaquarium.org.
Tampa General Hospital’s experts are available to consult with community businesses on their infection prevention plans for a safe re-opening. Businesses can learn more by contacting Steven Chew, Senior Administrator, Infectious Diseases, at SChew@tgh.org.
ABOUT THE FLORIDA AQUARIUM
The Florida Aquarium actively participates in and promotes stewardship of the natural environment as part of our mission of conservation. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, The Florida Aquarium provides an opportunity to see over 9,000 aquatic and terrestrial animals, explore complex ecosystems, look for wild dolphins in Tampa Bay aboard the Bay Spirit II, play at the Splash Pad and more! Ranked the #2 Aquarium in North America in a recent USA TODAY’S 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, the aquarium is more than a must-see attraction, The Florida Aquarium is working to protect and restore our blue planet on many conservation fronts, including research and rescue efforts that are saving Florida’s sea turtle and coral populations and to ensure that sharks continue to swim our seas. In August of 2019, The Florida Aquarium, in partnership with Project Coral, became the first to successfully reproduce critically endangered Atlantic pillar coral in a laboratory and in 2020, became the first to successfully reproduce Atlantic rigid cactus coral. To learn more, follow us on social media at @floridaaquarium and visit www.flaquarium.org.
ABOUT TAMPA GENERAL HOSPITAL
Tampa General Hospital, a 1007-bed non-profit academic medical center, delivers world-class care as the region’s only center for Level l trauma and comprehensive burn care. It is one of the nation’s busiest adult solid organ transplant centers and is the primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. With five medical helicopters, Tampa General Hospital transports critically injured or ill patients from 23 surrounding counties to receive the advanced care they need. Tampa General houses a nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center and its 32-bed Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit is the largest on the West Coast of Florida. It also is home to an 82-bed Level IV neonatal intensive care unit, and a nationally accredited rehabilitation center. Tampa General Hospital’s footprint includes 17 Tampa General Medical Group Primary Care offices, TGH Family Care Center Kennedy, TGH Brandon Healthplex, TGH Virtual Care and 15 outpatient Radiology Centers. Tampa Bay residents also receive world-class care from the TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track network of clinics, and they can even receive home visits in select areas through TGH Urgent Care at Home, powered by Fast Track. As one of the largest hospitals in Florida, Tampa General Hospital is first in the state to open a command center in partnership with GE Healthcare. For more information, go to www.tgh.org.
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