FAA trainee tests positive for coronavirus, briefly halting flights to NYC and surrounding area

FAA trainee tests positive for coronavirus, briefly halting flights to NYC and surrounding area
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Flights to New York were temporarily halted Saturday after a trainee with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The FAA said it briefly halted the flights after it discovered that the trainee, who was working in air traffic control of the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, on Long Island, came down with the virus.

“The trainee has not been at the facility since March 17. We have contacted local health authorities and we are developing a plan to quickly sanitize/clean the affected areas. The center remains open and operational,” the FAA said in a statement. “If the FAA must close any sectors of airspace during the sanitization process, those flights will be rerouted as part of a longstanding contingency plan to ensure continued operations.” 

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The FAA added that it is cooperating with local officials and employee representatives to determine how many of its workers interacted with the trainee in recent days.

“Each facility across the country has a contingency plan that has been recently updated and tested,” the FAA said. “The safety of our staff and the traveling public is the FAA’s top priority.”

The FAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding how many flights were affected. The halt was lifted after approximately 30 minutes. 

Airlines are already one of the hardest hit industries during the coronavirus pandemic, with travelers canceling trips at heightened rates over fears of traveling.

The coronavirus has infected over 21,000 people and killed 266 in the U.S. as of Saturday afternoon, according to The New York Times’s tally.