Flights to New York City paused over airport staffer diagnosed with COVID-19

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Aircraft are parked on a runway at the airport in Germany on March 15 due to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration briefly suspended flights to New York City-area airports on Saturday because of coronavirus-related staffing issues.

After a trainee at Ronkonkoma, a regional air-traffic control hub on Long Island, tested positive for the disease, flights were disrupted for the entire area.

In an alert posted online, the FAA advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark, and other airports in the region because of staffing issues at the Ronkonkoma facility, which the agency says primarily handles high-altitude, cross-country flights.

The halt, which also affected Philadelphia’s airport, was lifted after about 30 minutes. Controllers were initially warned it could last several hours.

In a statement, the FAA said the Ronkonkoma facility remains open. The agency said the trainee was last there on Tuesday, and that it is working to figure out what other workers he may have interacted with.

Earlier this week, air traffic controllers at JFK operated from an alternate location on airport property after a technician assigned to the airport’s control tower tested positive for COVID-19.

In that case, the FAA said that the technician hadn’t been to work since March 11, and that controllers returned to the tower after precautionary cleaning.

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