- Coronavirus confirmed in an employee from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- NASA is trying to keep its various missions on schedule, recently stating that the Mars 2020 mission is still a go, at least for the moment.
- The employee who tested positive for COVID-19 hadn’t been to the center for at least 10 days prior to testing positive for the virus.
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The coronavirus pandemic has affected every possible industry in one way or another, and the US space program is no different. NASA has shuttered a number of its centers, pushing staff to work from home and only allowing mission-critical personnel to access certain facilities. Now, just a day after the agency put out a release detailing its plans for the immediate future, Florida Today is reporting that an employee at the Kennedy Space Center has tested positive for the virus.
The employee was reportedly last present at the facility over 10 days prior to testing positive for the virus and had already been working from home under NASA’s mandate to do so. Still, it’s unclear if the individual was infected during his most recent days at the center.
Speaking with Florida Today, NASA spokesperson Tracy Young explained that the agency is optimistic that the virus wasn’t spread among employees at Kennedy Space Center.
“This employee was last at the center more than 10 days ago,” Young told the outlet. “Based on the circumstances and elapsed time since the employee was on-site, we believe it was acquired after they had started teleworking and there is no additional risk at the center from this person.”
It’s not clear what the agency is basing that assumption on. It’s been shown that COVID-19 can cause few or even zero symptoms for as long as two weeks, making it difficult, if not impossible, to determine the exact window in which a person was contagious. Nevertheless, the space center says it is taking the matter seriously and that the health and safety of its workforce is a top priority.
It was just yesterday that NASA released an updated forecast of its upcoming missions, revealing that the Mars 2020 remains on schedule for the time being. Other projects, including work on the oft-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, will face further delays as work on those missions pauses temporarily.
Kennedy Space Center is one of NASA’s most important facilities, employing around 10,000 staff members. The mandatory work-from-home order applies to all NASA centers, so current staff numbers at Kennedy should already be at a minimum. It’s unclear whether this newly-confirmed case of COVID-19 will affect any of the work still being done by “mission-critical” employees at the center.
Going forward, we’ll expect additional updates from NASA, as the agency has been good about timely updates on its plans in the wake of the pandemic.