COSI to use science to decide when to reopen

Coronavirus

COLUMBUS (WCMH)–Some of your favorite cultural institutions may be opening soon, like the Columbus Zoo, but not all of them are ready to open their doors. The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus says, it is waiting on opening its doors to the public.

Tuesday is the first day cultural institutions the government is allowing them to reopen to the public. COSI says it is going to rely on science to help it decide when the right time to reopen for guests and staff.​

“We’re really relying heavily on science. What is the CDC recommend? What does the NIH recommend? What does the scientific and medical community really say about how we can best guess around how to be safe and secure, in our case, for the guests and families we love to serve,” said Dr. Fredric Bertley, the president and CEO of COSI. He holds a PhD. in immunology and is well versed in what is going on with the COVID-19 pandemic.​

“The most important thing you all have to remember is, as we are opening, we are ensuring that we’re providing safe experiences for you and your loved ones,” said Bertley. “We’d rather be closed another week, than open up prematurely. So it’s really trying to do that balance. It’s a tough balance, but we’re content with where we are standing right now.”​

The balance he is referring to is one of safety versus revenue. From a fiscal standpoint, COSI is heavily dependent on revenue from visitors to operate the business, nearly 75% of its annual revenue comes from that source.​

“When we’re closed we don’t generate revenue, it’s a big problem so we, the board, myself, my whole team, we want to open as fast as possible, but first and foremost is the safety of our guests and patrons, and our team,” said Bertley.​

According to Bertley, COSI is close to being ready to reopen, but readiness won’t matter if the timing is wrong. ​

“We’ve been working on hand sanitation, how to clean, how to social distance in hands on, interactive settings. So, we’ve been thinking about that for weeks, in fact months. But we’re also being very scientific about it. We want to study just a little bit to see what happens when the cultural institutions open up and is there a spike or not, and we don’t think there will be, but we just want to be very mindful and collect as much data as we can to make the best educated guess. Say, you know what, it’s sound and right to open up,” explained Bertley.​

Once COSI opens, things will be different, just like in other venues. Social distancing and other precautions will be in place, and not everything will be available.​

“When we open, we’re going to have almost absolutely everything on-line. Our exhibits, a lot of our demonstrations that you see in the atrium, a lot of cool stuff. Our theater, however, that one we’re gonna keep closed for a little while,” said Bertley.​

Two of the exhibits at COSI have been extended to last longer than they normally would.​ The DC Superheroes exhibit was supposed to end and move on to its next location at the end of May, but COSI was able to get its stay extended until Labor Day.​ The center’s newest exhibit has barely been seen by anyone, as COSI closed to the public right as it was set to begin its run.​

“We have this fabulous exhibit on Cuba, and everyone knows how cool Cuba is and most of us Americans don’t get a chance to go to Cuba. Well, you come to this exhibit in central Ohio at COSI and you can learn all the wonderful things about Cuban culture, the history, and it’s a really fantastic exhibit,” said Bertley.​

Being shutdown for three months has been difficult for a lot of businesses, and COSI has been no different. Through positive relationships, however, they have been able to salvage some of what may have been missed by the public due to the center being closed.​

“It’s been frustrating, but we have such a good relationship with the AMNH museum [American Museum of Natural History] out of New York City, that they’ve allowed us to extend this. So, we will definitely have the full ride of that exhibit for our guests, to make sure they have a chance to see it, but it’s really fantastic,” said Bertley.​

Ultimately, what else are you going to do this summer? With so many other events cancelled due to the pandemic, some families are finding they have less to do and more time on their hands. Bertley says, cultural institutions like COSI can fill that void if and when they can reopen safely.​

“Cultural centers, art museums, zoos, you know the Franklin Park Conservatory, places like us, libraries, these are the cornerstones of civilization if you will. These cultural institutions offer for either free, or reduced pricing, or regular pricing, rich opportunities that you can’t get in the classroom, that you can’t get on Netflix,” said Bertley. “It’s important that we as these cultural anchors for any major city, in this case the classic ones in Columbus, that we’re able to open and receive guests.”​

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