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St. Louis Zoo will require employee COVID-19 vaccinations by end of year

St. Louis Zoo will require employee COVID-19 vaccinations by end of year

St. Louis Zoo during a pandemic

Social distancing signs are in place at the St. Louis Zoo to protect others during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The St. Louis Zoo will require its employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, officials said Wednesday.

The policy, which went in to effect Monday, requires employees with full- and part-time benefits to complete the vaccine series by Oct. 15. All employees, including seasonal and other part-time employees, must be vaccinated by the end of the year.

Currently, about 70% of the zoo’s employees have been vaccinated, and the zoo strives to reach 100%, according to a statement from Billy Brennan, director of public relations and government affairs.

“As the delta variant cases are surging, the zoo has engaged in numerous thoughtful discussions around this topic of requiring vaccinations and certainly understand there are multiple viewpoints,” the statement said. “However, as a science-based organization and one that prioritizes the safety of its community, we believe this is simply the right thing to do to help us navigate our way out of this pandemic.”

Employees who are not vaccinated will no longer be able to work at the zoo. Officials will consider disability exemptions.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is “actively considering” a vaccine mandate but has not yet made a decision, spokesperson Cassidy Moody said.

And the St. Louis Art Museum does not have a mandate for employees but “is prepared to reevaluate as community conditions change,” spokesperson Matt Hathaway said. Nearly 89% of the museum’s 279 staff members have provided proof of vaccination.

Of 399 full-time employees at the zoo, nearly 94% are vaccinated or are in the process. Of the 93 part-time staff members with benefits, at least 77% are vaccinated or are in the process.

Zoo officials haven’t decided whether to require volunteers to be vaccinated. A policy requiring vaccination for visitors is not being considered.

The zoo noted that some organizations and companies across the region are requiring proof of vaccination and recognizes that some employees haven’t been vaccinated for personal reasons. The zoo is offering education sessions for employees, providing vaccine literature and working with the city’s Department of Health to provide two on-site vaccination clinics.

St. Louis Zoo curator of primates Heidi Hellmuth gives a preview of the new Primate Canopy Trails, an outdoor habitat next to the historic Primate House. It opens to the public at 10 a.m. July 12. Video by Valerie Schremp Hahn, photos by Christian Gooden

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