In response to guidelines and information from local and state public health authorities, the Academy temporarily closed to the public at 5 pm on March 12, 2020. Thanks to the effectiveness of regional efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, and with an extensive array of enhanced health and safety measures in place at the museum, the Academy looks forward to reopening to members and donors on October 13 and the general public on October 23. We can't wait to see you soon!
For complete health and safety information, ticketing details, and FAQs, please view our reopening page.
As a leading scientific institution and trusted community space, we remain committed to following the recommendations of public health authorities and will continue to act in an abundance of caution with the health and safety of our visitors, staff, and volunteers as our top priority and responsibility.
We encourage everyone to stay healthy, informed, and updated with resources from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. We will also be posting regular updates on this page and on Twitter.
Dr. Shannon Bennett on COVID-19
The Academy's Chief of Science, 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.
Frequently asked questions
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.
When we are ready to welcome guests back to the museum, a number of new health and safety measures will be in place, 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.
While Academy visits will certainly be a little different after reopening, we’re working hard to make sure we can deliver the same high-quality museum experience in the safest way possible. We’ll be sure to keep our community updated and informed on our reopening page so every guest knows what to expect before, during, and after a visit. Thank you for your continued patience and support!
Common-sense hygiene and the usual tactics used to prevent seasonal colds and flu are super important in the fight against COVID-19:
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.
Wear a mask or facial covering. Covering your nose and mouth when outside the home reduces virus spread—and is now required in California.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and throw the tissue away.
Avoid touching your face, especially eyes, nose, and mouth.
Practice social distancing: Avoid unnecessary travel and large groups, don’t shake hands or hug, and try to stay at least 6 feet away from people. Greeting alternatives include waving and elbow bumps.
If you are sick, stay home. If you have flu-like symptoms, call your doctor.
And last but not least:
- Don’t panic! We’re all in this together, even if we have to stay six feet apart for a while. Be kinder than necessary to family, friends, neighbors, first responders, food service workers, medical professionals, and yourself.
While many Academy staff will work remotely during our temporary closure, a limited number of essential personnel will have access to the museum to continue providing the highest level of care for our 38,000+ live animals and keep the building and its critical systems running. These staff members will practice social distancing and implement 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.
If you purchased tickets for Daytime Admission, NightLife, or any other event* scheduled during the time of 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 in August to reschedule a field trip for your school or youth-serving organization.
*The deadline for Party After Dark refunds has passed and ticket purchases have been converted to donations to support the Academy according to our non-refundable ticket policy. We truly thank you for your generosity.
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:
World Health Organization (WHO):
- WHO's COVID-19 hub: A global homebase for COVID-19 updates and resources.
- Advice for the public: Helpful videos and shareable, downloadable infographics.
- Myth busters: Separate rumor from reality—and pass it on.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- CDC's COVID-19 hub: Another helpful homebase for US-specific updates and resources.
- Facts about COVID-19: The top five most important things to know about the disease.
City and County of San Francisco:
- SF.gov’s COVID-19 hub: A simple, user-friendly site with info about available city services.
- Shelter-in-place guidelines: All the info you need about Bay Area counties’ current shelter-in-place order.
- 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.
Keep your mind open while the Academy is closed with an eclectic array of science content for all ages and all places.
Can't visit quite yet but want to support the museum you love? Make a donation or become a member today.