The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a brief suspension of flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center.
In an alert posted online Saturday, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region. The directive also affected Philadelphia International Airport.
The halt was lifted after about 30 minutes. Initially air traffic controllers were warned it could last several hours.
“A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controller trainee at New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., tested positive for COVID-19 today,” the FAA said in a release shared with USA TODAY by spokesperson Arlene Salac.
The employee who tested positive has not been at the facility since Tuesday. The FAA has contacted local health authorities and is developing a plan to sanitize the affected areas.
The FAA is working with local health officials to track down any personnel who may have interacted with the person who tested positive.
On Friday, JFK Airport shared an FAA statement from its verified account confirming an air traffic control technician tested positive for the virus.
At the time, the airport tweeted: “The airport remains open. This information is preliminary and subject to change.”
The FAA’s Friday statement noted: “The technician has not been to the facility since March 16… A professional cleaning company will clean the facility this morning… The safety of our staff and the traveling public is the FAA’s top priority.”
Earlier this week on Thursday, the air traffic control tower at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport temporarily closed after an air traffic controller tested positive for the coronavirus, the airport and the Federal Aviation Administration said.
And the air traffic control tower at Chicago Midway Airport was closed on Tuesday after three FAA technicians tested positive for the coronavirus.
Contributing: Curtis Tate