Summer camps in St. Louis County, St. Louis Zoo, reopen soon

A sign informs visitors that the Saint Louis Zoo is temporarily closed to the public to protect against the spread of coronavirus Monday, March 16, 2020, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — St. Louis-area kids and families bored at home during the coronavirus shutdown will start to see new options open up next month, when the St. Louis Zoo, summer camps and swimming pools all are expected to reopen.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced Wednesday that summer camps will likely be able to open starting June 1. County officials are still working on guidelines. A news release from the county said officials are hoping to allow pools to open in early June, though a specific start date has not been set.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Zoo announced that it will reopen June 13, though with enhanced measures that seek to limit the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Across the state, the Kansas City Zoo opened Saturday. Summer camps also began earlier this month in Kansas City.

But St. Louis city and county have taken the brunt of the coronavirus in Missouri, accounting for more than half of the state's 11,080 confirmed cases and about two-thirds of the 616 deaths. While most of the state reopened May 4, St. Louis and St. Louis County began a phased-in reopening approach on Monday.

The zoo will limit attendance and require timed reservations, a news release said. It will begin accepting reservations June 8 by phone or through its website.

Zoo staff will be required to wear facial coverings, as will guests over the age of 9, except those with excused medical conditions. Visitors may remove or lower the masks when eating or drinking but must maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

"Face coverings can help minimize virus transmission from asymptomatic individuals. Keeping our animal and veterinary care staff safe and protected is the best measure to keep our animals safe and at minimal risk of exposure to a virus that we know very little about," St. Louis Zoo President Jeffrey Bonner said in a statement.

St. Louis County has released few details about how summer camps will operate in what Page described as the "new normal," but some contact sports may be limited or prohibited.

Republican state Sen. Bob Onder is urging the state health department to drop a proposed regulation that would give local health departments permanent authority to close schools, churches and other gatherings. A March 20 emergency order gave local departments that power during the coronavirus pandemic, Onder, of St. Charles County, said.

"Whether or not this power granted by the March 20th emergency order was well-advised, we do not believe local health authorities should be granted such power carte blanche going forward," the letter, signed by Onder and 18 Republican colleagues, said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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