Coronavirus Outbreak: With coronavirus-induced COVID-19 spreading all over the world, US space agency NASA is also not immune to the danger. Keeping in view the rapid spread of the virus, the agency has taken several steps to keep its employees safe. In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the agency is coordinating with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and reviewing how things are going at each of the NASA centres.
A week ago, an employee at the NASA's Ames Research Centre in California was tested positive for the virus, and the Centre was then elevated to Stage 3 response plan. According to NASA's response action plan, Stage 3 action plan means that telework, i.e. working from a remote location, is made mandatory, and only those personnel who are essential to a mission are called to the centres. Meetings are conducted virtually with only remote participation to limit gatherings and daycare services are closed. Only mission-essential travel will be permitted.
Recently, the agency found out that an employee at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama also tested positive and hence, the centre was also elevated to Stage 3 action plan.
Bridenstine added that while there are no reports of the virus in any other centres, all the remaining centres of NASA are transitioning to Stage 2 action plan, in which all employees who can work from remote locations, are highly encouraged to do so. "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," he added.
The NASA response action plan is a 4 stage plan in which Stage 1 includes full access to the centres and the employees are told to be ready to work from home, if required. They are advised to avoid much social interaction and to maintain hygiene as much as possible. The centres are also told to conduct meetings virtually as much as possible.
In Stage 2, employees are encouraged to work remotely and cancel or postpone all visits. The centres are only accessible to mission-essential visitors, with prior approval. Fitness centres are closed and clinics defer physical check-ups. Large in-person meeting and gatherings are postponed or cancelled.
Stage 4 is the most severe response plan in which, like Stage 3, telework is mandatory, and the centres are closed, except for some mission-essential personnel to "protect life and critical infrastructure". All additional facilities are closed, all travel is suspended and only virtual meetings are conducted with remote participation.
The NASA Administrator has also asked all employees to take extra precautions and ensure their own safety and that of others around them.