NASA confirmed that an employee from its facility in California has been infected by the coronavirus. In response to the health issue, the agency issued a mandatory order requiring all staff members of the facility to work from their own homes.

According to NASA, the employee confirmed to have contracted the COVID-19 virus, works at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. The agency issued a statement regarding the matter on March 9.

NASA Ames Research Center
An aerial photograph of NASA's Ames Research Center taken in February 2012. NASA/Eric James

Confirming COVID-19 Case At NASA

According to the agency, it received confirmation that one of the employees of the Ames Research Center has been infected with the coronavirus. It is not yet clear how the employee was infected or if he or she had previously travelled to areas and countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19. NASA noted that although it believes that the virus' exposure at the facility was limited, it has ordered all of its employees to start working from home as an added precaution.

"On Sunday, March 8, we received confirmation that an Ames employee tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19)," NASA said in a statement. "We believe the exposure at the centre 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."

Coronavirus
Workers of Junjiang Industrial Limited Company produce medical masks in Yilong New District at Bouyei-Miao Autonomous Prefecture of Qianxinan in southwest China's Guizhou Province, Feb. 21, 2020. Medical supply companies in Yilong New District have been producing medical supplies at full capacity to support the fight against the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. (Xinhua/Yang Wenbin/IANS) Xinhua/IANS

Establishing Work-From-Home Conditions

According to NASA, it is not yet clear how long the current telecommuting setup at the Ames Research Facility will last. Also, the agency did not go into detail regarding the quarantine protocols it is currently carrying out in the centre while its employees are at home. The agency stated that it intends to release additional guidelines for its employees who do not have the proper equipment to work from their homes. NASA will also coordinate with staff members who would need special laboratory equipment to carry out their work.

"NASA's Ames Research Center will temporarily go to MANDATORY telework status effective immediately and until further notice," NASA explained. "More guidance will follow for those who do not have the equipment to work from home or who work in labs or other facilities requiring similar technical equipment that are fixed assets."