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NASA center in California issues mandatory work-from-home policy after employee tests positive for COVID-19 – The Verge


One of NASA’s research centers in California has issued a mandatory telework policy after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The move is temporary for now, coming just a few days after NASA’s centers throughout the country tested out their work-from-home capabilities during a voluntary telework day on Friday.

On Sunday, NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, announced it was restricting access to its facilities. Engineers and scientists at Ames play roles in many of NASA’s major programs, focusing on areas like supercomputing, artificial intelligence, air traffic management, and more. The center is also home to immense wind tunnels that help test both aircraft and vehicles bound for space.

In its telework announcement, Ames Research Center noted that more updates would follow for employees who work in the labs and facilities on site. “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 Heath and Medical Officer in accordance to agency response plans — Ames Research Center will temporarily go to a mandatory telework status until further notice,” the center said in a statement.

Employees have long had telework capabilities at NASA, but as the novel coronavirus outbreak spreads throughout the US, the space agency wanted to do a wide-scale test of its telework capabilities last week. NASA employees were encouraged to bring their laptops and badges home on Friday, March 6th.

“The purpose of this exercise is to test our capabilities, resources, and preparedness for large-scale teleworking,” Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s associate administrator, wrote in an email last week. “I encourage civil servants and onsite contractors who are telework eligible to participate by working from an alternate location Friday.” Jurczyk also told employees that they should start taking their laptops and other important work items home daily in case the outbreak progresses further in the coming weeks and days.

“Your continued support helps us remain vigilant if the situation requires additional actions,” Jurczyk wrote.

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