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NRAO Coronavirus COVID-19 Response

NRAO Coronavirus COVID-19 Response Information

This site provides information, news, and resources regarding the NRAO response to COVID-19.

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Current COVID-19 Policies and Information | 1 March 2022

The purpose of this note is to describe our exit from the COVID-response “soft lockdown” we’ve been on for the past two months, and to present our COVID response plans moving forward.  

While our COVID case numbers in January and February were significant, it appears that the Omicron surge has abated,  and we are prepared to return to more normal operations. All of the changes below are enabled because of the effectiveness of the vaccines.  As a reminder, employees accessing our facilities are required to be up-to-date on their boosters; accommodated employees excepted. Any employees not meeting these criteria will be placed on leave-without-pay 2 March 2022, and terminated 9 March 2022.

Changes Effective 1 March 2022:

  • All employees should return to their normal duty station and schedule. Employees with approved telework agreements should return to their approved telework schedule. People working in our facilities may leave their office doors open, according to their preference. People in shared offices should return to normal practices.  
  • NRAO/GBO domestic business travel, and meetings in our facilities, are authorized. International business travel is authorized, but such travel should be considered carefully, based on conditions of the host country. 
  • AUI/NRAO/GBO sponsored offsite events are authorized.  Please work with ESS to develop COVID-safe protocols for attendees. 
  • In-person meetings (without limitations on number of people attending) in our facilities are  authorized. Masking in these situations depends on the local masking status (see below). 
  • Visitors/contractors/students/employee candidates are permitted to visit our facilities, and are required to be fully vaccinated and up-to-date on their booster as applicable. Visitor masking status should reflect the local masking requirements. 
  • NM Visitor Center/GBO Science Center are authorized to re-open to casual visitors.  An ESS-approved work plan must be prepared and approved to address vaccinations, and COVID safety protocols for accepting casual visitors. 
  • Overnight visiting groups (GBO facilities) are approved and subject to the Observatory vaccination/booster requirements. GBO bus tours are approved, with masks required. 
  • The café (GBO facilities) may return to use for takeout service as soon as practicable. GBO staff may resume eating in the cafeteria. 
  • COVID-19 physical distancing is no longer required for vaccinated staff. Sanitizing protocols remain in place in break rooms and bathrooms at our facilities. Food sharing in break rooms is allowed.   Temperature monitoring each morning will be halted. Please continue to report any COVID exposures or concerns to HR or ESS.  Masking when using the VLA shuttle or bus will be based on the local masking status. 


This week, CDC changed its masking guidelines, recommending decisions be based on local (county) rates of infection and positivity. We are going to follow this practice, with ESS assessing the mask requirements for our North American locations independently. The CDC county assessment website is here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/covid-by-county.html

A table of current statuses per site is listed below.

ESS, your local HR representative and Dept Heads will make sure the mask status for our locations is well-known and followed closely.  Assuming the overall infection rates continue to decline, I expect VA and WV will drop the mask requirements for non-accommodated staff within a few weeks. I strongly suggest you keep a mask handy in case your site status changes.


This return to normal operating conditions is good news. We will keep an eye on the local/regional COVID situations, and may choose to reinstall parts or all of our COVID restrictions if we see upticks in infection rates, local outbreaks etc.  We will need to be particularly vigilant starting late summer. We’ve all lived with COVID for two years now, and each of us is responsible for our personal safety, and that of our friends, colleagues and family members. 

As we begin more activity in the facilities, we need to strongly support hybrid meetings (combining in-person and remote participants). We know this is not easy, and we’re working on solutions. Your patience is appreciated.  

If you have questions or comments, please direct them to ESS, your supervisor, local HR rep, Dept head or Tony Beasley. As always, many thanks to ESS, HR, CIS and all of you for keeping us going.

Current COVID Risk Levels by County

You can check the CDC's COVID-19 by County website to check for any local updates.

Data Last Updated: Friday, 24 June 2022
Arrows indicate an increase (↑) or decrease (↓) in risk level from the previous week. If no arrow is present, there has been no change.
The masking requirement for Socorro has been lifted and masking is optional, but always welcome.

AUI District of Columbia MEDIUM
AUI: Dun Loring Fairfax County, VA MEDIUM
Edgemont Road + CDL Albemarle County, VA MEDIUM
DSOC + VLA Socorro County, NM MEDIUM↓
GBO Pocahontas County, WV LOW
NAO Bernalillo County, NM HIGH
VLBA: Brewster Okanogan County, WA LOW
VLBA: Fort Davis Jeff Davis County, TX MEDIUM↑
VLBA: Hancock Hillsborough County, NH LOW
VLBA: Kitt Peak Pima County, AZ MEDIUM¹
VLBA: Los Alamos Los Alamos County, NM MEDIUM
VLBA: Mauna Kea Hawaii County, HI HIGH
VLBA: North Liberty Johnson County, IA MEDIUM↓
VLBA: Owens Valley Inyo County, CA LOW↓
VLBA: Pie Town Catron County, NM LOW↓
VLBA: St. Croix St. Croix County, VI LOW↓

CDC Masking Guidelines & Notes:

High Risk Mask use required indoors. Use existing protocols for testing.
Medium Risk No masking required, talk to your healthcare provider if you are at risk. Mask use appreciated.
Low Risk No masking required.
  1. Tohono O'odham Nation EO No.2021-03 requires face coverings in all public areas. The Nation is policy is easing masking requirement for vaccinated and boosted employees. E.Ford is investigating the applicability to Tiger Team visit. Masking is required of "visitors" even if they are employees in respect the spirit of the Nation's approach.