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NRAO Coronavirus COVID-19 Response > news > NRAO/GBO update - Friday July 24th

NRAO/GBO update - Friday July 24th

We continue our return to full operations. The North American NRAO/GBO instruments are operational, IT systems performing well. The situation in Chile continues to improve, and plans to begin restarting ALMA are undergoing review.

In our key states (NM, WV, VA) the number of COVID new infections continues to climb, basically we’re back to where we were in April (although the mortality rate is somewhat lower, thankfully). Some parts of the US are experiencing major outbreaks; new lockdowns and closings are being implemented. Travel restrictions (e.g. 14 day quarantines for people entering NM) are difficult to manage, but important in containing the disease.

I have no new reports of AUI/NRAO/GBO employees testing positive for COVID. All NRAO/GBO activities are following the RFTO guidelines and protocols we developed in April/May, and I think we’re doing a good job controlling the workplace risk for our staff members coming into the facilities. These days we have a lot of people teleworking (with occasional facility access), and there are steady improvements in efficiency and communications in this area as well. The risk of a COVID contamination event in the Observatories remains however, and we all have a responsibility to monitor our health, follow good practices (masks, physical distancing, hand washing), and be ready to use medical services and/or quarantine ourselves/our families as needed. As mentioned last time, if you’re making serious decisions based on test results (visiting elderly relatives, returning to work after feeling sick, etc.) please consider the situation carefully, double up the testing when possible. (Some parts of the country seem to be having long delays with test results.. doesn’t help).

We have identified points of contact for staff members with particular issues:

  • Safety – Jody Bolyard + ESS team
  • Medical – HR (Faye Giles, Allen Lewis, Tracy Samples)
  • Office Access, Operations – F&A (Steven Geiger, Skip Lagoyda, Mike Holstine, Mary Mayo)
  • IT – CIS (David Halstead, Pat Murphy Matthew McCleary, Chris Clarke)
  • Field Protocols – ADs/Division Heads, Supervisors
  • Other Topics (e.g. Childcare) – (Lyndele von Schill, Tracy Samples + others – all sites)

Please reach out to these people if you have concerns or questions, or your supervisor, Department Head, Site Director, or me. HR is also distributing information on counselling services for staff and families.

For many people, serious issues about children going back to school are approaching. There is no consensus within/between school districts, even within the same state, about the risks involved. Generally, school districts have been preparing to go back in some hybrid model (some days in school, some online) but a growing number of schools have already made the decision to be fully online through the end of the year. For people facing this issue, I recommend you reach out to Lyndele and the HR team, discuss your plans/concerns. We are considering what the Observatories can do to support people through this time.

We’re a month away from the scheduled transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 (where we considered opening up our activities, potentially with face to face meetings, visitors, travel). Realistically, that transition is not going to be possible within the next several weeks… community infection rates are too high. Rather than transition to some “new normal” in September, I think we’re probably already living it right now… I’m guessing we will probably continue in the current workplace mode through the end of the year. We’ll see how things play out in the next 4-8 weeks, if there is a steady decline in the number of infections, that may give us confidence to restart some of these other activities. If you haven’t settled in to this new working environment, talk to someone listed above or your supervisor about what’s not working, what you need.

We’re getting the job done, in difficult times. The back-to-school issue is approaching, so let’s keep the discussion going. Thanks to everyone for helping develop and implement our safe working practices, it’s important we follow them closely.

Tony Beasley