The five employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Aircraft Operations Center (AOC), located at the Lakeland Linder International Airport in Lakeland, tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, according to spokesman Jonathan Shannon.
Shannon told Fox News on Tuesday the employees were last in the facility between June 3 and June 8.
Last Tuesday, officials at the AOC closed work areas where the employees had been, which were then “thoroughly cleaned” in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An undisclosed amount of employees at the base who were known to have been in contact with the five who tested positive have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The base has been operating using CDC, state, and local guidelines on social distancing and working remotely when possible.
“NOAA 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 in an emailed statement. “Our medical officer is closely monitoring the health and wellness of flight crews and support personnel in accordance with CDC guidelines.”
The AOC base in Florida is one of two responsible for sending hurricane hunter aircraft to investigate storms during hurricane season and other times during the year. The other facility where the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron is based out of is at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
The outbreak at the base was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
News of the outbreak at the base came as Florida logged 1,700 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, continuing an upward trend.
The facility did not say if any hurricane reconnaissance missions would be affected by the employees being out sick or under self-quarantine.
It’s been a busy hurricane season so far, with three named storms already recorded from a season that officially got underway on June 1. Two tropical storms, Arthur and Bertha — both in the Atlantic — already formed this year in May.
There are as many as 13 to 19 named storms predicted during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) said last month.
Six to 10 of those could develop into hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or more, and three to six could even become major hurricanes, capable of inflicting devastating damage.
The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, and will include the names: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, and Wilfred.