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Another NASA employee has COVID-19, forcing work-from-home order

Published Mar 16th, 2020 8:21PM EDT
coronavirus news
Image: Thomas Lammeyer/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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  • A NASA employee in Alabama tested positive for COVID-19, prompting a lockdown and mandatory work-from-home order. 
  • All other NASA facilities are now encouraging staff to work from home. 
  • Mission-essential work now takes a back seat to safety. 
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It was just last week that NASA was forced to lock down its Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley after an employee at the center tested positive for COVID-19. The space agency sent staff home, elevating the center to “Stage 3,” which is NASA’s label for a mandatory work-from-home order.

Now, with the virus continuing to spread across the country, another major NASA location has been hit with the “Stage 3” mandate. This time it’s the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. All employees of the facility will be forced to work from home and staff will have “restricted access to the center until further notice,” according to a NASA press release.

The COVID-19 outbreak has everyone a little bit on edge, and with good reason. The infection can easily jump from person to person, it’s highly contagious, and even those who aren’t showing symptoms may be carrying the virus and spreading it to others. With that in mind, many businesses are asking employees to work from home, and NASA is no different.

A Stage 3 designation means that NASA is forcing its staff at a specific facility to work from home. Both Ames and Marshall are dealing with that reality right now, but what about the many other NASA centers around the country? NASA is now taking a proactive approach across the board, issuing a Stage 2 mandate which “strongly encourages” employees to work from home, but does not make it mandatory.

“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. Center directors have been in contact with their employees about this status change and steps moving forward,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

“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 staff will be in constant contact with their supervisors, and NASA is asking that employees stay home if they feel sick, even if their specific facility is open and they are performing mission-essential work. This could lead to delays in some NASA projects, but the safety of the staff is obviously the top priority here.