The research facility, which is based in Moffett Field in the Silicon Valley, has been ordered into restricted access after the worker was confirmed to have contaminated the coronavirus on Sunday, March 8th.
“On Sunday, March 8th, we received confirmation that an Ames employee tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19),” Ames officials wrote to employees today. “We believe the exposure at the center has been limited, but — out of an abundance of caution, and in consultation with NASA Headquarters and the NASA Chief Health and Medical Officer in accordance to agency response plans — Ames Research Center will temporarily go to a mandatory telework status until further notice.”
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated that the order is crucial on monitoring who may have been subjected to the pathogen at Ames.
“Limiting personnel at the center will allow Ames medical personnel and public health officials to determine potential contacts and assess areas that may require additional cleaning and mitigate potential exposure to center personnel,” Bridenstine said in a statement. “Working with county officials, Ames leadership, and medical personnel are working to trace the contacts of the employee and notifying individuals who may have had significant contact with that person.”
Three Scientific Campaigns Have Also Been Called Off
Access to the Ames facility is now limited to essential employees only, according to Bridenstine, with only personnel required to safeguard life, property, and critical mission functions’ allowed to enter the center.
NASA has also canceled three airborne Earth science events that would have sent teams of researchers on flights that would have launched from the Ames Research Center. Those projects, known as DeltaX, Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere (DCOTTS) and Sub-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment (S-MODE), will be deferred for later this year.
“The scientific returns of these projects are not expected to be impacted by this change of plans,” Bridenstine said in the statement.
Until now, there are about 564 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, most of them being in Washington state and California, and 111,354 cases confirmed across the world.