NASA chief urges space agency employees to work from home amid coronavirus outbreak

NASA is monitoring coronavirus impacts that could affect the U.S. space program.
NASA is monitoring coronavirus impacts that could affect the U.S. space program. (Image credit: NASA)

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."

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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 outbreak.

"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.

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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.

  • Fachino
    What about the essential personal that have to maintain the buildings, the on-sight Contractors who have to go to work . No answer on what or how we are to proceed. We feel like second hand citizens again!