NASA center in California issues mandatory work-from-home order after employee tests positive for coronavirus

A view from the air shows the NASA Ames Research Center.
(Image credit: NASA)

NASA's Ames Research Center in California has issued a mandatory policy for employees to work from home after one worker tested positive for the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.

The research center, which is located in Moffett Field in the Silicon Valley, has been placed on restricted access after the employee was confirmed to have the coronavirus on Sunday (March 8). 

"On Sunday, March 8, we received confirmation that an Ames employee tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19)," Ames officials wrote to employees today. "We believe the exposure at the center has been limited, but — out of an abundance of caution, and in consultation with NASA Headquarters and the NASA Chief Health and Medical Officer in accordance to agency response plans — Ames Research Center will temporarily go to a mandatory telework status until further notice."

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement that the work-from-home order is vital to tracking who may have been exposed to the virus at Ames. 

"Limiting personnel at the center will allow Ames medical personnel and public health officials to determine potential contacts and assess areas that may require additional cleaning and mitigate potential exposure to center personnel," Bridenstine said in a statement. "Working with county officials, Ames leadership and medical personnel are working to trace the contacts of the employee and notifying individuals who may have had significant contact with that person."

Access to the Ames Research Center is now restricted to essential personnel only, Bridenstine said, with only employees "required to safeguard life, property and critical mission functions" allowed entry. 

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NASA has also called off three airborne Earth science campaigns that would have sent teams of scientists on flights that would have taken off from the Ames Research Center. Those mission — known as DeltaX, Dynamics and Chemistry of the Summer Stratosphere (DCOTTS), and Sub-Mesoscale Ocean Dynamics Experiment (S-MODE)— will be rescheduled for later in the year, Bridenstine said. 

"The scientific returns of these projects are not expected to be impacted by this change of plans," he said in the statement. 

The mandatory work-from-home order at Ames comes on the heels of a telework test run Friday (March 6) by NASA to measure the impact the coronavirus could have on daily operations. 

"Last Friday's agencywide voluntary telework exercise was a good test of NASA's large-scale preparedness with no reported issues to the overall IT system," Bridenstine said. "As the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation evolves, we'll continue to closely monitor and coordinate with federal, state, and community officials to take any further appropriate steps to help safeguard the NASA family."

As of today, there are about 564 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, the bulk of them in Washington state and California, with 111,354 cases confirmed worldwide, according to Livescience. There have been 3,892 deaths linked to the virus worldwide, it added. 

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.