NASA is forcing almost all 17,000 of its staff to work from home after coronavirus cases occur at 2 space centers
NASA has sent all but a crucial cluster of its 17,000-person workforce home in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jim Bridenstine, the US space agency’s administrator, announced this on Tuesday evening.
“Effective immediately, all contractors and employees will shift to mandatory telework until further notice,” Bridenstine said in a declaration emailed by NASA’s public affairs office. “Mission-essential personnel will continue to be given access onsite.”
Bridenstine noted that “a narrow amount of employees have tested positive for COVID-19,” as the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus is known. As of Tuesday evening, verified cases at NASA included its Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
“[I]t is vital that we take this pre-emptive step to stop further spreading of the virus among the staff and our communities,” Bridenstine added.
NASA’s agency-wide move trails a phase called “Stage 3” from a lately unveiled “Response Framework” document, which it made to rapidly lessen the spread of the coronavirus among workers, if necessary.
Stage 1 applies to mostly operational access to centers and facilities, with a stress on social distancing, decrease in non-essential travel, and other activities to decrease the spread of the virus. The last phase, called Stage 4 — which only Ames is presently subject to, per a NASA coronavirus page — is a near-total shutting of all facilities, “except to protect life and significant infrastructure.”
“This is the first time NASA has been in this state,” a spokesperson revealed.
Coronavirus is verified to have infected about 200,000 people around the world and killed 8,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and roughly half of all cases have not yet resolved. The total mortality rate of the novel coronavirus is known to be as high as 3.4% or, more lately, approximately 1.4%, according to STAT.
Though, many cases are still going unnoticed due to testing shortfalls and the fact that some people with COVID-19 show no apparent symptoms. Deaths are also inclined heavily toward those people who are older or have what appear to be underlying risk factors such as kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, or cancer, according to a March 11 research published The Lancet.
NASA previously made access tight to its astronauts, including those scheduled to fly SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship for the first time this spring — and return the US to flight after the retirement of the space shuttle program in July 2011. NASA is also working to develop the Orion spaceship and Space Launch System to send astronauts back to the moon mid-decade, and perhaps on to Mars in the 2030s.
When asked which missions and projects would be influenced by the agency-wide escalation in its response plan, but NASA spokesperson did not immediately provide a response.