San Jose's Happy Hollow Zoo reopens amid rising cases

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Concern over the COVID-19 surge has forced a number of Bay Area attractions to hold off on reopening, but Happy Hollow Park & Zoo in San Jose is bucking the trend.

The zoo reopened on Tuesday with a big slate of new safety precautions.

"Masks are required and we have staff watching to make sure they’re not congregating, that they keep their masks on…it’s one way in, one way out, touchless wash stations. All the things that need to go into that, yes, we’ve been fine tuning all of that," said Zoo Manager Kevin Hartell.

He and his staff have been working with city health officials for months on a plan to reopen the zoo, which is largely outdoors, and received the go ahead to reopen even as cases are increasing.

Capacity has been limited to just 10% and all of the indoor attractions will stay closed.

But those changes did not stop excited families like the Dixons.

"We have a little girl, it’s her birthday today so we thought we’d get out, see some animals," said Julia Dixon, who arrived at the park soon after opening with husband John and their two young children.

The family is grateful to have another outdoor place to go.

"We’ve been stuck at home for such a long time. With two little ones, it’s been really difficult," said Julia. "Our daughter loves the meerkats. That is by far her favorite…we’re just really excited."

John agreed, adding, "any distraction helps," after months of schools, parks, museums and playgrounds being closed.

Getting to this reopening day though took some big safety overhauls.

"We had some city staff come through to give us good feedback so we could fine tune things for today," said Hartell.

But all of that hard work and patience has been worth it, he said.

"Now we’re here, we’re so excited about it…we know that this is an important place for a lot of people and we know that they were looking to us as a safe place to provide a little bit of exercise, a little outdoor time. And we’re providing all of that and we’re just ecstatic to be able to do that."