Airspace around one of busiest US airports closed after air traffic controller tests positive for Covid

The Texas airport, which is one of the busiest in the US, closed the airspace briefly on Monday while it cleaned the Terminal Radar Approach Control Facility after a controller was found to have contracted the virus, according to NBC News.

The facility handles the air traffic at the airport and others in Texas, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA said the airspace was closed for around an hour-and-a-half from 6:30pm on Monday, while the cleaning took place.

During the incident, the airport warned customers that flights would be affected by the incident. The FAA website showed flight delays of around an hour, according to NBC.

Last week, the airspace was closed at both the Dallas Love Field and Dallas-Fort Worth International airports, after a separate traffic control centre recorded three positive tests in a week.

Flights were grounded at the two airports last Wednesday for several hours, as the Fort Worth Air Route Traffic Control Centre was sanitised as a precaution, following the positive tests.

Elsewhere on Monday, flights were delayed at several airports in Florida, after an FAA facility close to Jacksonville was sanitised after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.

The FAA’s centre in Jacksonville “implemented traffic management programmes” at 4:20pm in reaction to the required cleaning, but was back in full operation by 6pm.

Several airports in Florida tweeted about the delays, and warned that there could be cancellations because of the cleaning required at the traffic control centre.

Although the number of people flying over the holiday period was much lower than 2019, there was a large increase in passengers travelling by plane in late December 2020 and early January 2021.

More than 1.1 million people were screened in airports in America on 26 December, which, at the time, made it the third busiest day for air travel in the US since March. At least 616,000 people were screened on Christmas day, as thousands more travelled in the days leading up to the holiday.

People continued to fly across the country in the days following Christmas, and Sunday 3 January saw the most travel by plane in the US in a single day since March, as 1.32 million people were screened in airports by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Health officials have warned against non-essential flying, while Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and part of the White House coronavirus task force, told US residents to brace for a surge of cases in the new year.

Speaking to anchor Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union on 27 December, Dr Fauci warned that “we very well might see a post-seasonal – in the sense of Christmas, New Years – surge or as I’ve described it, a surge upon a surge”, following the increase in travel and gatherings.

Both Texas and Florida have been badly affected by the pandemic, as the former has recorded 1.83 million cases and at least 28,681 deaths, while the latter has seen 1.38 million positive tests and more than 22,089 fatalities.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 20.8 million people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached 353,621.


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