The Academy is temporarily closed to the public, effective Sunday, November 29, 2020.
The health and safety of our guests, staff, and animals has always been the Academy's top priority. With the recent COVID-19 surge in the Bay Area and San Francisco City and County rolling back into California's most-restrictive "Purple" tier, the Academy is required to close to the public in accordance with local and state public health guidelines, effective Sunday, November 29, 2020.
We encourage everyone to stay healthy and informed during this difficult time. Please explore the COVID-19 websites for San Francisco, the California Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for helpful resources and timely updates.
The Academy deeply appreciates the patience, support, and understanding of our community, and we look forward to welcoming you back to the museum when it is safe to do so.
Frequently asked questions
Because of the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in San Francisco this October and November, the City and County of San Francisco was designated a "purple tier" county by the California Department of Public Health on Saturday, November 28, 2020, resulting in a rollback of the reopening timeline for many indoor businesses, including museums, zoos, and aquariums.
By closing our doors to the public, we're following the science, adhering to public health guidelines, and helping keep our guests, staff, animals, and community safe.
If you already have tickets for a visit during our temporary closure period, we will refund your order to the original form of payment within 5-7 business days. If you do not receive your refund within seven business days, please contact us and provide your order number. We appreciate your patience as we process these refunds.
If you received discounted admission thanks to donations to our Academy for All initiative, such as with a School Field Trip reservation, all previous payments have been credited to your site for a visit during the 2020-2021 school year. Our Education team will be in touch with you to reschedule a field trip for your school or youth-serving organization.
Since mid-March, the Academy’s Reopening Task Force has been closely following the guidance of local, state, and federal public health officials, internal experts, and other key stakeholders to develop a reopening strategy that prioritizes the health and safety of our guests, staff, animals, and community—and is informed by the latest science.
Since we reopened to members and donors on October 13, 2020, and the public on October 23, a number of new health and safety measures were implemented prior to our reclosure on November 29, including but not limited to:
- Limiting museum attendance to 25% of our normal maximum capacity to promote physical distancing;
- Requiring all guests, including members, to purchase or reserve timed tickets in advance for contactless entry and reduced guest density;
- A mandatory pre-entry health screening for all guests and staff; anyone reporting COVID-19 symptoms or recent exposure to the virus will be asked to reschedule their visit;
- Increased fresh air circulation and filtration throughout the building;
- Required masks or face coverings for all guests ages 3 and up and all staff and volunteers;
- Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of exhibits, public spaces, and restrooms throughout the day, and the installation of hand-sanitizer dispensers;
- Requiring guests to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet between their party, other guests, and Academy staff;
- Helpful signage and floor decals to promote mask-wearing, handwashing, and physical distancing;
- The continued closure of Morrison Planetarium, the Naturalist Center, Curiosity Grove, Discovery Tidepool, and other exhibits and spaces subject to stricter reopening guidelines and/or where physical distancing is difficult to enforce.
- Hosting pop-up public programs and demonstrations outdoors in the East and West Garden whenever possible.
- Requiring all food and drink to be consumed outdoors.
Guests can expect these same health and safety measures to be in place when we reopen, along with an increased emphasis on the importance of physical distancing and proper mask-wearing. We’re working hard to make sure we can deliver the same high-quality museum experience in the safest way possible, and will keep our community updated and informed so every guest has the information they need to stay safe. Thank you for your continued patience and support, and we hope to welcome you back soon.
While most Academy staff will continue to work remotely, a limited number of essential personnel have access to the museum throughout our closure period to provide the highest level of care for our nearly 40,000 live animals and keep the building and its critical systems running. These staff members continue to practice physical distancing and follow rigorous safety protocols while at work to reduce any health risks.
Want to learn more about how we keep our animals healthy and active? Watch our video on animal enrichment and listen to aquarium curator Vikki McCloskey’s interview on KALW about caring for albino alligator Claude during closure.
Common-sense hygiene and the usual tactics used to prevent seasonal colds and flu are super important in the fight against COVID-19:
Wear a mask. Covering your nose and mouth when outside the home reduces virus spread—and is now required in California.
Practice physical distancing: Avoid unnecessary travel and large groups, don’t shake hands or hug, and stay at least 6 feet away from people outside your household. Greeting alternatives include waving and elbow bumps.
If you are sick, stay home. If you have flu-like symptoms, call your doctor.
Wash hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds. If you don’t have soap and water handy, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue away, or cough or sneeze into your elbow.
Avoid touching your face, especially eyes, nose, and mouth.
And last but not least:
Don’t panic! We’re all in this together, even if we have to stay six feet apart. Be kinder than necessary to family, friends, neighbors, first responders, food service workers, medical professionals, and yourself.
As a scientific, research, and educational institution, the Academy believes it’s more important than ever to seek out COVID-19 information from reliable, science-based sources. Here are some links from trusted international, national, and local public health authorities to help you stay informed:
City and County of San Francisco:
- SF.gov’s COVID-19 hub: A simple, user-friendly site with info about available city services, testing, and opening and closure guidelines.
- SF Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 hub: Updated a little less frequently, but a still-useful list of SF-specific FAQs.
- Text COVID19SF to 888-777 for official updates about coronavirus in San Francisco.
California Department of Public Health:
- California's COVID-19 hub: Case tracking and statewide updates.
- Blueprint for a Safer Economy: Detailed county-by-county information about California's tiered reopening system.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
The Academy's Chief of Science on COVID-19
Dr. Shannon Bennett is a virologist with a focus on infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. This expertise has naturally made her an indispensable resource for the Academy—and the general public—as we navigate the pandemic. Explore below for videos, interviews, and articles featuring Dr. Bennett.
- The COVID-19 Pandemic: Science for Solutions (10/13/20): Dr. Bennett and Academy paleontologist Dr. Peter Roopnarine discuss how data and modeling can lead to epidemiological insights.
- SF Chronicle interview with Erin Allday (9/1/20): Dr. Bennett in conversation with the Chronicle's health reporter.
- "How to Stay Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic"(8/11/20): Part of wikiHow's "A Virologist Explains" video series.
- "Pandemics of Our Own Making" (7/21/20): Dr. Bennett's op-ed in bioGraphic magazine about the importance of mending our broken relationship with nature.
- "What Is a Virus and How Does COVID-19 Affect the Body?" (6/8/20): Part of wikiHow's "A Virologist Explains" video series.
- Academy Breakfast Club, Ep. 7 (4/14/20): Dr. Bennett talks parasites and pathogens.
- Reddit AMA (3/19/20): Dr. Bennett responds to questions during a Reddit "Ask Me Anything."
- Video Q&A (3/16/20): Dr. Bennett fields questions about COVID-19 from our social media channels.
Keep your mind open at home with an eclectic array of science content for all ages and all places.
Help us continue to recover, rebound, and rebuild. Please contribute to the Academy Resilience Fund today.