The first positive case of coronavirus at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida was confirmed today (March 23).
As reported by Emre Kelly for Florida Today, Tracy Young, a NASA spokesperson at KSC, the agency notified employees on Sunday (March 22) that a KSC employee tested positive for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19.
However, Young noted that the employee who has tested positive likely didn't contract the illness until they had already begun telecommuting and working from home. "This employee was last at the center more than 10 days ago," Young told Florida Today. "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."
Young added that the "protection and care of the Kennedy workforce, their families and the entire Kennedy community remains our top priority during this uncertain time."
This news follows NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine's announcement last week that mandated that all agency employees, with the exception of critical mission personnel, work remotely from home. This escalated NASA's response to the coronavirus pandemic to Stage 3 as part of the agency's "Response Framework."
Bridenstine's announcement came after NASA employees tested positive for COVID-19 at the agency's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. NASA has since elevated three of its centers — the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana, Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and Ames — to Stage 4, citing increasing coronavirus concerns.
So far, the growing spread of the disease has resulted in a number of changes at NASA. In addition to the change in working conditions for NASA employees, work is currently on hold for the James Webb Space Telescope, a number of other science-focused missions have been put on hold and timelines for spacecraft development is also up in the air.
Currently, as of March 23, there are over 33,000 cases of coronavirus in the U.S. alone and 400 reported deaths, according to the CDC.
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