NOAA’s hurricane hunter base in Florida hit with COVID-19

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Five employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hurricane hunter base in central Florida have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said.

The areas where the employees worked at the Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland were closed on June 9 and cleaned “out of an abundance of caution,” spokesman Jonathan Shannon said.

The employees had last worked in the center between June 3 and June 8, Shannon said.

Anyone who was known to have been in contact with the employees has been notified of the test results and those employees have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, Shannon said.

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He said the base continues to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local officials on social distancing and working remotely when possible.

The hurricane hunter aircraft are flying with the minimal crew members necessary to conduct missions, Shannon said. The agency has increased cleaning of aircraft before and after flights, and a medical officer is monitoring the health of flight crews and support personnel, he added.

“The health and safety of our employees and partners is our top priority and we will continue to share COVID-19 information and impacts as they become available,” Shannon said.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 and the so-called hurricane hunter planes routinely fly missions to measure the intensity of the storm systems.