Coronavirus: 5 NOAA hurricane hunter employees in Florida test positive

LAKELAND, Fla. — Five employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hurricane hunter team in Florida tested positive for the coronavirus Friday.

The five employees are employed at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, The Ledger reported. The center is responsible for sending planes into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico for tropical weather reconnaissance missions, the newspaper reported.

Jonathan Shannon, a spokesperson for the base, which is located at Lakeland Linder International Airport, confirmed the positive tests in a news release.

Shannon said that the base had been following the coronavirus guidelines set down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including social distancing and working from home, the Tampa Bay Times reported. However, the base became more active when Tropical Storm Cristobal swirled to life in the Gulf of Mexico on June 1 and did not dissipate until June 11, the newspaper reported.

Shannon said in the news release that the employees who tested positive were last in the Lakeland operations center between June 3 and June 8.

“Hurricane hunter aircraft are flying with the minimum number of crew members necessary to conduct missions and we have increased the cleaning of aircraft pre- and post-flight,” Shannon said. “Our medical officer is closely monitoring the health and wellness of flight crews and support personnel in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

AOC leaders closed the work areas associated with the five employees and thoroughly cleaned them June 9, The Ledger reported.

Hurricane season began June 1. There were two storms before the official start to the season as tropical storms Arthur and Bertha formed in May.

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