NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has urged all space agency employees who can work from home to do so due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, with workers at three space centers testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Last week, an employee at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the agency to issue mandatory work-from-home orders for the center. Since then, an employee at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama has also tested positive, sending that center into a mandatory telework status as well. Both centers are in what NASA calls a Stage 3 response to the coronavirus outbreak, Bridenstine said in a statement Saturday (March 14).
“While we do not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 at any other NASA center as of today, March 14, out of an abundance of caution, all other NASA centers are transitioning to Stage 2 of our response framework,” he added. “In Stage 2, telework is strongly encouraged for employees who can work remotely. I’ve directed employees to take home their laptop computer, power cord, NASA badge and any other equipment needed to work effectively from an alternate location, as well as essential personal items they may need.”
NASA employees must stay in contact with their supervisors and avoid all travel that is not mission-essential, Bridenstine said.
He urged even mission-essential personnel to stay home if they aren’t feeling well.
“As I’ve told the NASA community if you are performing mission-essential work on center, do not go to work if you feel sick. Everyone should take extra precautions to protect themselves and others,” he said (emphasis is NASA’s). “I’ve asked employees to please continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer, and if they have questions, don’t hesitate to talk with their supervisor.”
Bridenstine said NASA’s response to the coronavirus to date has safeguarded the space agency against the worst effects of the outrbreak.
“The vigilance our workforce has displayed in our response to coronavirus is remarkable and has placed our agency in a position of strength as we confront this national emergency,” he said. “I’m grateful for all the members of the NASA community and everything they’re doing to care for the health of our workforce and keeping the mission going. We will get through this together, and NASA will continue to accomplish amazing things for our country and all of humanity.”
NASA employees can find out more about the space agency’s telework and leave protocols at the NASA People website here.