Friday the 13th has long been an ominous day for the superstitious among us. But Friday, March 13 was a day of very real horror for Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the New England Aquarium.

"I’ve done a lot of scenario planning in my career," said Spruill. "But there aren’t many scenarios that have almost all of your revenue gone in one day with no end in sight."

It was on that day that the aquarium closed its facilities to visitors in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Savings needed to be found quickly. And like so many organizations and companies, that meant difficult furloughs and layoffs to try to weather the storm.

"We can close our doors to the public," said Spruill. "But, because we are unlike a lot of the other cultural institutions in the city, we still have to care for our animals."

The aquarium is home to 20,000 animals, from tiny damselfish to giant octopuses, anaconda snakes, penguins and sea turtles. And while things have slowed to a relative standstill in the outside world, inside the aquarium, life goes on.

"We have had a core team of about 35 people who are working every single day," said Spruill. "I like to call them our first responders."

One of those "first responders" is Michael O'Neill, the supervisor of the aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank.

"Anything that's directly related to animal care has to be carried out," he said. "These animals’ needs haven’t changed, and we need to be here to take care of them."

O’Neill said at the start of the shutdown, employees did a thorough inventory and stocked up on supplies they thought might be tough to get.

"We’re able to house, probably, a few months supply of food and medical supplies and cleaning supplies and things like that," he said.

He said most of their vendors are still operating at some capacity, which has been a pleasant surprise. And it's a good thing, since he has 1,000 mouths to feed in his tank alone.

"There’s a whole slew of different food items — maybe a dozen or so different types of seafood — and we thaw it out and prepare it each day just like some sous chefs in a restaurant kitchen," he explained.

Typically, this work would be done by a larger staff and with the help of scores of interns and volunteers. Without that support, those still working have had to find efficiencies. That’s meant — among other things — fewer, longer dives into the tank to feed the animals and clean up after them.

All of the aquarium's departments have been split into two teams. They operate in shifts, so that if someone on a team falls ill, the whole team can quarantine for 14 days to be safe, and there's another team that can still take care of the animals.

So far nobody has fallen ill. And staying safe means social distancing and wearing masks while at work. That's whether the team is prepping food, feeding the animals or — another daily routine that hasn’t stopped — training them.

"Initially, wearing the masks, we weren’t quite sure how our animals would receive them," said Patty Schilling, who manages the marine mammal department, which is responsible for seals and sea lions.

But Schilling said she's been impressed by how quickly the sea lions adjusted to masked trainers.

"Even more impressive to me is the fact that they can pick out individual trainers, despite the fact that they can’t see a majority of our face," she said.

Seeing is, of course, the whole magic of a place like the aquarium. And just because the doors are closed doesn’t mean you can’t still see the animals. The museum broadcasts a virtual visit each morning that you can catch on Facebook or YouTube — with live, hands-on educational demonstrations.

The museum has also launched two new webcams that stream 24/7. One gives a view of the Giant Ocean Tank and the other focuses on the penguins. Schilling said there’s something to be said for just watching.

"I do consider myself to be really fortunate at a time like this," she said. "You get to spend some time just observing the animals and their daily lives and they just make you laugh."

And who among us couldn’t use a little more laughter these days?

Correction: A previous version of this story spelled Vikki Spruill's name incorrectly. We regret the error.