This webpage documents the measures being implemented by NOIRLab due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. NOIRLab is actively responding to the situation, and this page will be kept updated with the current measures. We are also coordinating with the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, which may bring further updates.

Revision log
Web page startedMarch 6, 2020
Aug. 7: Weekly update. Phase 0 Operations audit. Chile quarantine.
July 31: Weekly update. Quarantine in the Coquimbo region, the required COVID-19 safety training roll-out
July 24: Weekly update. Phase 0 procedures and activities audit in Chile
July 17: Weekly update. Continued work-from-home for many staff. Clarification of remote work location.
July 10: Weekly Update – Phase 0 operations audit in Tucson
June 26: Weekly Update – COVID Planning and Operations Contact List
June 19: Weekly update
June 16: Updated versions of our Coronavirus Exposure Prevention Plan.
June 6: Weekly update
May 30: Updated guidance on our teleworking timeline, confirmation of restart planning status for Arizona and Chile, and the Coronavirus Exposure Prevention Plan
May 15: Gemini-North restart.
May 12: Update re. Gemini North restart and more
May 1: Arizona state-wide stay-at-home order extended through May 15.
April 30: Update to the NOIRLab HQ access
April 20: closure and teleworking extended.
April 9: Update added re. mail pouch service to the Recinto .
April 6: Update added re. Recinto access requirements.
April 2: Update added re. extension of closure and teleworking  through at least 30 April, 2020.
March 25: Daily update added re. night-time curfew in Chile.
March 24: Daily update added re. Gemini North and HR FAQ.
March 23: IT contacts added. Update re. Recinto access. Guidance added for the affidavit in Chile. See under 17 March below.

March 21: Daily update added re. Recinto access. Guidance added for the affidavit in Chile. See under 17 March below.

March 20: short daily update added re. spam filters.

March 19: Daily update added.

March 18: Update about shut-down of the operations. COVID-19 questionnaire update.
March 17: Important info from HR. HR COVID email address added. Minor tweaks to formatting.
March 16: Teleworking section added. News about DESI commissioning.
March 13, 2020 01:30 am MST: Update re. Gemini Science Meeting
March 12, 2020: Bigger updates to all sections.
March 10, 2020: Larger sections of the updated. The list of countries has not been updated.

Update Aug. 7, 2020:

Our Chile colleagues continue under their quarantine in the cities of La Serena and Coquimbo, with the AURA mission office in Chile successfully obtaining collective permits for 45 AURA/NOIRLab staff to perform essential activities on-site this week.

We’re excited for today’s Phase 0 Operations audit of Kitt Peak National Observatory activities in Arizona. We will hear about current activities, with a look ahead to future plans for DESI/Mayall, NEID/WIYN, the tenant facilities, and Visitor Center activities. With this Phase 0 audit, we will have reviewed current and proposed upcoming activities at all NOIRLab sites with the goals of ensuring:

  • Essential activities continue to be conducted with the utmost safety;
  • We are prepared to handle any new essential tasks that might arise; and
  • We will be ready for next steps when the time is right.

On a final note; Many of us have faced an increasing number of Zoom meetings since we’ve started working from home. Any chat that previously could be a casual check-in with someone now needs to be a scheduled meeting. We are ramping-up Lab-wide activities, to provide forums for everyone to hear about, and contribute to our evolving organization. This week, the leadership team discussed the topic of meeting fatigue. We are working on a set of Lab-wide recommendations to help mitigate the stress and challenges of so many Zoom meetings. Please let us know if you have specific recommendations that you would like us to consider!

Update July 31, 2020:

At the All Hands meeting, you heard that our Chile colleagues are living under a total quarantine in the cities of La Serena and Coquimbo, as of Wednesday, July 29. This quarantine limits everyone’s activities outside of the home for personal reasons and also limits AURA’s operational activities. The AURA mission office in Chile worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and local officials to obtain a “collective permit” for 31 selected employees. The permit allows them to travel to perform minimum activities that ensure the safety of the equipment in our facilities at Cerro Tololo, Cerro Pachón, and La Serena. Each week, the permit needs to be renewed, and the list of employees that may perform minimum activities will be updated.

We are now requiring all staff to take training on key topics in the Coronavirus Exposure Prevention Plan (CEPP). The CEPP training is available through UltiPro as a three-part series, plus a training updates slide, totaling approximately 20 minutes. This training covers topics such as site access, when to stay home, our mask policy, and cleaning and disinfecting. Please complete the courses by August 14 by following these instructions to enroll in the training. For staff already trained in the CEPP, you must still navigate to the training courses in UltiPro to review the updates slide along with some questions to emphasize key policies. If you have questions about your need to take this training, please contact your supervisor, who will be receiving a report each week on who has completed the training. Questions about the training can be directed to Chris Montgomery ( Stay tuned for an invitation to enroll in this training. We have also just launched a reorganized internal staff COVID-19 webpage with operations updates and staff COVID-19 resources (VPN log-in is not required). Please bookmark these pages! We hope this will make the COVID-19 information more accessible until the new Intranet site is launched. Please email if you have difficulty accessing these sites or the information they contain.

Update July 24, 2020:

Last Friday, we held an extensive audit of ongoing Phase 0 procedures and activities in Chile. This audit included AURA-O, COS, Gemini, CTIO, SOAR, Rubin Construction, CAS, and HR activities at both the mountain and base facilities in Chile. Like all ongoing operations audits, the primary focus was ensuring that safe procedures are in place and well-understood. The audit was a great success and showcased the strong collaboration taking place in Chile even during the challenging times.

At next Wednesday’s All Hands meeting, we will talk about the extension of NOIRLab’s stay-at-home working mode. This extension was announced in last Friday’s operations update and was mentioned yesterday by Matt Mountain (AURA President) during the Awards Ceremony.

Update July 17, 2020:

Most of us continue to operate in a work-from-home mode, including many in our Hawai‘i team even as Gemini-N has been successfully running its night-time operations and delivering limited on-site technical work. To help you plan home/work life activities, we are writing to let you know that we now expect many staff across all NOIRLab sites will continue working from home most of the time for the remainder of the calendar year. This continued work-from-home mode will help to protect all staff, including those that need to work on-site even part of the time, by keeping the number of staff in the workplace down.

Those of you who can conduct all of your work duties from home, even as science operations activities ramp up, will continue to be requested to do so until the end of the calendar year.  Please talk to your supervisor if you have questions about whether you fall into this category.  People who may be expected to come on-site for specific activities will likely be doing so part-time, and spending the remainder of their time working from home. 

Working “from home” means working from your primary state of residency (for U.S. employees) or your primary country of residency (for Chile employees) as on record with HR.  Please reach out to HR ( if you are working from a location other than your primary residence, or if you have questions about your residency requirements. 

We recognize that there will be many questions related to this update, including:

  • Allowability and reasonability of materials and supplies needed to work from home;
  • Expectations for staff training;
  • Procedures for requesting to collect items from offices, including procedures for obtaining AURA-provided masks for office visits;

We are working on these important details and will address them for you over the next two weeks.

Update July 10, 2020:

As the shutdown of science operations continues for the fourth month in both Arizona and Chile, we have an opportunity to review current essential activities in those locations with the goals of ensuring:

  • Phase 0 essential activities continue to be conducted with the utmost safety
  • We are prepared to handle any new essential tasks that might arise, and
  • We will be ready for the next steps when the time is right 

To meet these goals, we conducted a Phase 0 operations audit of the Tucson base facility operations on Monday, July 6. We thank everyone on the team who worked to prepare for this audit, and who observed the presentation and discussions! This audit had the support of Val Schnader, Vice President for Operations and the Chief of Staff for AURA. Val has the approval final authority over decisions to restart or move to a new phase in our operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are re-energized by the constructive discussion that highlighted opportunities to clarify and improve aspects of our Phase 0 operations. A similar audit for Phase 0 operations in Chile will take place next Friday, July 17.

Monday’s audit highlighted some key operational facts for everyone to be aware of:

  1. Everyone must wear an AURA-provided mask while in the workplace, even if stopping by briefly to pick something up;
  2. Managers should meet with any staff who are going into the workplace, if you haven’t already, to ensure that details of local procedures and on-site contacts are clearly understood.  Questions about local procedures can be directed to your local planning lead (see contact list below);
  3. You can find the current version of NOIRLab’s Coronavirus Exposure Prevention Plan (CEPP) here: English and Spanish
  4. You should promptly report non-compliance of any back-to-work procedures, or concerns about safety policy violations, to your local safety lead (see contact list below) and your manager, so that we can address the issue and ensure that everyone is trained in the correct procedures.

Update June 26, 2020:

Gemini North continues to be successfully operating in its Phase 1a. The coronavirus situation remains very serious in Arizona and Chile, so there are no plans to change operations status in those locations. 

While we remain in our unusual state of operations, we remind everyone that you may only access our facilities according to approved procedures. You may not ask one of your colleagues with building access to let you in and you may not give one of your colleagues access, even if just for a moment to grab something. This would be a severe violation of NOIRLab safety policy. See the table of contact information below, for the correct contacts for building access.

There will be a Phase 0 operations audit and Phase 1 look ahead review of the Tucson Base facility the week of July 6. This does not mean that we are preparing to ramp-up operations in Tucson any time soon. It means that we want to ensure that Phase 0 essential activities continue to be conducted with the utmost safety, we are prepared to handle new minimal essential tasks, and we are ready for next steps when the time is right. 

As always, please share any concerns about safety policy violations with your local safety lead and your manager, so that we can manage the violation and make sure everyone is trained in correct procedures. The table below contains a full set of contact information for questions and concerns about our operations.

COVID Planning and Operations Contact Information 

Overall planning strategy and oversight — Pat McCarthy ( and Beth Willman (

Head of Safety — Chuck Gessner (

HR Division Chief — Lynda Dec (

Training Lead — Chris Montgomery (


Tucson Base Facility operations planning — Adam Bolton (

KPNO planning — Lori Allen (

Building Access requests — First approved by Tammie Lavoie ( (Daniel Calabrese for Rubin staff,, and then Adam Bolton

Local Safety questions — Tammie Lavoie (

Local Facilities questions — Floyd Librea (

Local HR questions — Lynda Dec (


Recinto and overall Chile planning — John Maclean (

Base operations planning — Andres Sanhueza (

Cerro Tololo operations planning — Steve Heathcote (

Cerro Pachon operations planning — Rene Rutten (Gemini), Eduardo Serrano (Rubin), Jay Elias (SOAR) (,,

AURA-O questions — Mario Hamuy (

Building Access requests — First approved by supervisor, and then John Maclean

Local Safety questions — Mariela Silva (

Local Facilities questions — Andres Sanhueza

Local HR Questions — Yura Monsanto (


Operations planning — Andy Adamson (

Building Access requests — First approved by supervisor, and then Andy Adamson

Local Safety questions — John Vierra ( )

Local Facilities questions — Eric Scicchitano (

Local HR Questions — Therese Sampia (

Update June 19, 2020:

Over the past week, the discouraging COVID-19 trends in Chile and Arizona have sadly continued. Hawai‘i continues to be one of the least affected by the pandemic of the US states. There continues to be no planned restart date for our observations in either Arizona or Chile. We are carefully monitoring and considering the situations in Arizona, Hawaii, and Chile separately. You will be informed by your supervisor well in advance of when you will be needed on-site. Please ask your supervisor if you have any questions.

For NOIRLab, it is a priority that the staff has the certainty and security that the return to face-to-face work is safe, always ensuring compliance with local laws and regulations. To this end, NOIRLab will work together with HR and AURA-O (in Chile) to carry out safety training in a coordinated manner. This follows the COVID-19 Exposure Prevention Plan (CEPP) (in English and Spanish — also available without VPN here: English and Spanish). We will keep you duly informed of the schedule of safety training sessions as we envision that the circumstances of each site make possible a safe and well-informed return to face-to-face work.

Update June 16, 2020:

An updated version of the NSF-Funded Centers COVID-19 Exposure Prevention Plan (CEPP) has been posted on the Resources page of the NOIRLab Employee Intranet in English and Spanish (these are also available without VPN here: English and Spanish) . It contains updated Chilean legal context, and all procedures remain the same. This information is critical for our phased restart. Details of site-specific situations can be found in this public NOIRLab COVID-19 announcement.

Update June 6, 2020:

In this week’s COVID operations update, we first want to reinforce the messages sent by the AURA President on Wednesday and in the NOIRLab Newsletter’s leadership message today. If you have not already, please find them in your email box and read them. As Matt Mountain wrote in his all-staff memo on Wednesday, the “racial inequality and prejudice, the spread of COVID-19 virus in all our communities, [and] the financial toll of faltering economies” we’ve seen over the past few weeks have been heart-wrenching. As events unfold, the range of emotions we are feeling can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to focus on work.

Taking care of ourselves and each other during these grueling times is all the more difficult when we are physically separate from our friends, family, and colleagues. Be kind to yourself and have empathy for all that people may be experiencing outside our interactions at work.

As we shared last week: If you are successfully completing your full set of work activities from home, then you do not need to plan for any mandatory changes to your working situation until 1 September 2020 at the earliest. There is no planned restart date for night operations in either Arizona or Chile. We are carefully monitoring and considering the situations in Arizona, Hawai‘i, and Chile separately. You will be informed by your supervisor well in advance of when you will be needed on-site. Please ask your supervisor if you have any questions.

Update May 30, 2020:

Many of you are successfully conducting your full set of work activities from home. If you fall into this category, then you do not need to plan for any mandatory changes to your working situation until 1 September 2020 at the earliest. Please ask your supervisor if you have any questions about whether you fall into this category.

Limited science operations are already underway in Hawai‘i. In Arizona and Chile, some of you will eventually need to begin on-site work to restart limited science operations or to support basic and time-critical maintenance. There is no planned restart date in either Arizona or Chile. We are carefully monitoring and considering the situation in Chile separately from the situation in Arizona. In decisions about the timing of restarting operations activities, we are prioritizing both staff safety and compliance with local and national conditions and regulations. You will be informed by your supervisor well in advance of when you will be needed on-site. Please ask your supervisor if you have any questions.

Last week, we informed you that the restart plans at all of our facilities will be consistent with the safety-related policies and procedures outlined in the Coronavirus Exposure Prevention Plan (CEPP), written by Chuck Gessner (NOIRLab’s Head of Safety, Health, and Environment) and Steve Shimko (National Solar Observatory’s Safety Manager). The final details of this CEPP are under review in Chile, and there will be site-specific procedures to supplement this plan to ensure compliance with local guidelines and regulations. Phase 1 of the CEPP is available in English and in Spanish. Training specific to the relevant policies and procedures will be provided to all staff who are asked to return to on-site work.As always, you can reach out to HR ( if you are concerned about your personal situation or you are concerned about being a member of a high-risk group. HR’s COVID-19 FAQ is here.

Update May 15, 2020:

We understand the concern many of you are feeling about the possible return to on-site work.  In this Friday’s update, we offer guidance on what to expect and to reassure you that safety remains our number one concern.

If you do not need to be on site to conduct your work, then you will continue to telework at least through the month of June, and possibly longer. Once we restart limited telescope operations, on-site work will remain limited to a narrow set of essential activities and the majority of staff will continue to telework for quite some time. 

Gemini-North in Hawai‘i has been given the green light on their plan to restart night-time observations on the night of Tuesday, May 19, with a minimal on-site crew. Earlier today, we held an internal Operations Restart Readiness Review for Gemini-North. The restart is possible because the governor of Hawaii has given permission for observatories to open, and because Hawai’i has a very low number of active COVID-19 cases. At today’s review we determined that appropriate safety protocols are in place and operating, all local and national regulations are met, sufficient supplies are on hand with a reasonable expectation of a functioning supply chain, and other operational protocols are in place. 

Planning is underway for a limited restart of science operations and basic and time critical maintenance at each of our sites. Limited restarts in Chile and Arizona will not occur until at least 4 June. Staff members essential to these activities will not return to on-site work until that time.  We continue to monitor the coronavirus situation in each of our locations and will keep you informed as conditions evolve. Staff who are essential for the restart of operations will be informed by their supervisors well in advance of when they will be needed on site. Limited restart of operations at each site will follow all applicable local and national regulations, whichever is more restrictive. The restart plans are being developed by local leaders at each site in coordination across NOIRLab and AURA, with AURA Corporate holding the final approval to move forward with limited restart at each site. Once approval is received for a restart, some telescopes will take longer than others to resume night-time operations because of additional required maintenance.

We thank all of our safety and facilities staff for the key work that they have been doing to ensure that when we do restart operations, we do it in a way that is safe and sustainable. Please join us in congratulating our colleagues for their hard work, and in celebration of Gemini-North’s operations restart.

Update May 12 2020:

Following our All Hands Meeting last week, there have been further developments relating to operations at our mountain and base facilities. We are developing site-specific plans to restart mountain- and base-operations across all NOIRLab locations. Restarting operations will be more complex and dynamic than the process of suspending operations that we conducted in March.

The timing of the restarts will be different for each location and must be compliant with local and federal regulations including those of the Tohono O’odham Nation. This includes compliance with local and federal guidelines for safe workplace conditions. 

The governor of Hawai‘i has provided additional information regarding the reopening of businesses in the state. He identified astronomical observatories as organizations that can resume limited operations using appropriate safety procedures. The Gemini team is planning a return to a minimal night-time-operations mode for Gemini North as early as mid-May, although this date is not confirmed. We will update you regarding specific timelines for developments in Hawai‘i as they are developed.

The State of Arizona’s current restrictions expire this coming Friday 15 May. We do not know if the Governor will issue new guidance this week. The government of Chile continues to evolve its response to the virus, particularly in Santiago and a few other hotspots.

Most of you have been able to conduct your work remotely over these past six weeks, and we thank you for your flexibility and perseverance. We plan to continue our flexible telework policy and expect the large majority of our workforce to continue telework, at least through the end of June. 

When we do restart operations, we will be implementing new workplace procedures designed to ensure a safe and fair workplace environment, based on guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), World Health Organization (WHO), Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), local jurisdictions, and the Chilean government. These new procedures will include requirements related to:

  • Workplace sanitation 
  • Social distancing
  • Use of personal protective equipment, such as face masks
  • Stay-at-home conditions

We will be training staff and managers in these procedures, once developed. 

We will keep you regularly updated with restart plans and timing at all sites, as they develop. Starting this Friday, we will send weekly updates to the entire team. We will also update this page and the externally facing website more frequently. As always, we welcome your feedback.

Update May 1 2020:

The Governor of Arizona has updated and extended the state-wide stay-at-home order through May 15. The NOIRLab HQ base facility will remain closed and operations on Kitt Peak will remain suspended until at least May 15. There is no change in the status of mountain or base facility operations at the other NOIRLab sites at this time.

Update April 30 2020:

We continue to limit access to our base buildings to minimize any potential exposure to COVID-19 and also limit the number of people in the buildings, by letting 24 hours pass between visits. Requests are first approved by your supervisor and then by John Maclean Chile and Andy Adamson in Hawai‘i. In Tucson, approvals are from today made by Kitt Peak Safety Manager Tammie Lavoie (instead of Chuck Gessner). For Rubin Observatory staff in Tucson, the supervisor goes through Daniel Calabrese before Tammy.

Update April 20 2020:

Given the ongoing coronavirus threat and evolving US federal and Chilean government guidelines, NOIRLab base facilities remain closed until 15 May or later and staff will continue to telework. Science operations at the summit sites also remain suspended at this time. We are however monitoring the situation closely and will post an update on Friday, 1 May.

Update April 9 2020:
Mail pouch service to the AURA Recinto:

New postal mail is delivered once every 2 weeks. Mail pouch delivered once a week if possible. For mail pouch service to the USA, please leave your mail in the box underneath the resident’s table by Thursday of each week.

Location: Recinto Squash Court.

Days open: Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm — Except for Wednesdays (closed for mail dropoff, mail sorting, and sanitation cleaning activities).

How to pick up mail: Please register a pickup time slot to maintain social distancing here


TIME. EXAMPLE – 09:30am, please leave by 09:40am.

lnside the squash court, you will find six tables a few meters apart from each other. A hand sanitizer unit is located inside the facility. Please apply sanitizer to your hands before and after picking up your mail. The top windows are open for improved air circulation.

  1. Reception sorting table
  2. Recinto Residents
  3. AURA-O & AURA CAS and other
  4. Gemini Observatory
  5. MSO
  6. Rubin Observatory

For any questions/comments please contact John Michael Plaza.

Update April 6 2020:
Recinto access requirements

We remind everyone that everyone entering the Recinto, including residents and their visitors, must complete an affidavit stating if they have come from outside the region or if they have any COVID-19 symptoms. The affidavit form can now be completed on-line here. Bear in mind that processing may take up to 1 business day. Affidavits are now good for 14 days. You should receive a reminder email before your affidavit expires.

If we do not have an up to date affidavit on file, you will be denied access to the Recinto by the guards and it may take some time to obtain approval to enter, particularly outside of normal business hours.

Residents who have travelled outside the region or report COVID-19 like symptoms may be asked to self-quarantine in their homes.

If you have a question regarding your affidavit status please email

Recinto pedestrian access aia Raúl Bitrán entrance

We are aware that some residents don’t have vehicles and go on foot to top Jumbo to collect groceries. Therefore pedestrian access via the top (Raúl Bitrán) gate will be available weekdays between 9:00am to 5:00pm CLST starting Monday 6 April. The same affidavit rules apply, so make sure you have a current one on file. The gate will remain closed to vehicle access.

Recinto mail pickup and collection

The system for mail pickup and collection is almost in place. We’ll send out an email with the details when it’s ready.

Update 2 April, 2020:

Given the ongoing coronavirus threat, US federal guidance, and policies issued by the Chilean Government, NOIRLab mountain and base facilities will remain closed through at least 30 April, 2020. Until further notice, all staff are required to continue teleworking, and telescopes are not conducting science operations. Staff coming to any NOIRLab sites are limited to those required to perform minimal caretaking and tasks deemed essential by AURA and NOIRLab, and require authorization from local leadership. We are committed to regular communication with staff about the status of our science operations, facilities closures, and teleworking policy. As we plan ahead for our operational state in the weeks and months to come, we are continuously monitoring the virus threat level, federal guidance, and school closures. We will update this message no later than 16 April, 2020.

Update March 25, 2020:

The Ministry of Health in Chile has issued additional restrictions in Chile, including a country-wide night-time curfew between 22:00 in the evening to 5:00 in the morning, and a sanitary check on travellers to the Northern regions (including Coquimbo). The Chilean borders remain closed to foreigners, with a 14-day quarantine for any arriving residents.

Update March 24, 2020:

Gemini North

The Gemini North telescope halted night-time operations Monday 23 March, in response to Hawai’i’s statewide order to restrict movement of residents and visitors to help curb the spread of COVID-19. 

Essential systems will be maintained to keep the personnel, facility, and equipment safe. Staff that are able will continue to telework to support our users and communities. With this action, scientific operation at all NOIRLab telescopes has been suspended.

FAQ from HR

An FAQ has been published by HR. This is updated regularly.

Update March 23, 2020:

Email addresses for IT Support

Please reach out through these emails for support in getting your VPN connection to work:

Chile / Hawaii – Gemini:

Recinto access

Anyone requiring access to the AURA Recinto in La Serena will require a completed affidavit (see 17 March update below). This includes residents. From 9:00 PM on Monday 23 March the upper entrance to the Recinto, from Raúl Bitrán, will be closed.

HR web page

A reminder of the new HR webpage on the HR website that informs about benefits related to COVID-19.

Update March 21, 2020:

Restricting Building Access

In light of the rapidly evolving coronavirus situation, the NOIRLab leadership has decided to significantly restrict access to all NOIRLab official buildings in all locations. Starting 9:00 PM local time Monday 23 March 2020 access to the buildings will require special approval from John Maclean (Chile), Andy Adamson (Hawai’i) or Chuck Gessner (Arizona). This is being done to protect the health of all employees by minimizing the likelihood of virus transmission and to minimize the risk that one of our facilities becomes contaminated with the virus and must be disinfected before re-entry.

After 9:00 PM local time Monday 23 March 2020 access to the buildings is allowed only by approval from the appointed site-approvers above.

The procedure for accessing the buildings will be to email your supervisor. Please provide:

  • Why you need access
  • When you want to go
  • When you will leave
  • What building and what part of the building you will visit
  • Upon exit, you must inform the supervisor you have left for safety purposes

(Supervisors: you will route these requests through your local site-approvers. You will receive an email describing that process. If you do not receive this shortly, contact your local site-approver.)

The local site-approver will then make a decision and inform the supervisor and employee. The local site-approver will maintain a shared spreadsheet tracking visits. After approval of the local site-approver, Safety and Facilities will be notified of the allowed access. Expect delays as a number of other people will need to coordinate efforts.

When entering the facility:

  • Only enter the section of the building that you are authorized
  • Minimize touching of surfaces
  • Use the shortest travel distance to the place you are going
  • Use sanitary gel, provided at most entryways 

The criteria that the local directors will use in deciding whether to grant access include:

  • Access will be allowed for tasks deemed critical tasks by AURA & NOIRLab.
  • Access will not be granted for tasks that can be deferred without undue negative impact.
  • Access will not be granted for convenience of getting work done in the office or lab as opposed to by telework. 
  • Access will not be granted simply because a staff member is having difficulty with teleworking. ITO will provide assistance where needed.
  • In no case should a staff member enter AURA work buildings if anyone in their household has symptoms of illness or a reasonable concern that they have been exposed to infection.
  • Staff may request a short visit to retrieve personal items and/or items needed for telework, however the expectation is that everyone should have retrieved any items needed for an extended period of teleworking by the end of Monday 23 March. 
  • Requests may be denied at any time based on the rapidly evolving situation.

A very limited number of staff will be granted standing authorization to enter one or more specific buildings at any time. This access should only be used for purposes that fit the above criteria and may be revoked at any time based on the evolving situation. 

Our highest priority is your safety. Please email us with any questions or concerns.

Local Site Approvers:

Chile John Maclean

Hawaiʻi Andy Adamson

Arizona Chuck Gessner

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The US Federal Government passed a new law “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)” that provides emergency leave and benefits on March 18, 2020. It generally requires employers with less than 500 employees to provide a certain amount of paid sick and paid leave to employees affected by COVID-19, and provides affected employers with a corresponding employment tax credit. However since AURA employs more than 500 employees, this law does not apply to AURA or its employees.    

Employees that may need to take leave due to COVID-19 should contact HR to discuss your specific circumstances.

Time Allocation Committee US Semester 2020B

Due to the disruption in many people’s work schedules caused by COVID-19, such as many of you having to relocate your work and teaching from the office to home, the NOIRLab has extended the deadline for all US Semester 2020B observing proposals by 1 week, from 31 March to 7 April 2020 (at 23:59 MST). Based on the expected workload of processing proposals, the NOIRLab staff will be able to accept the 1-week extension for proposals and still be able to keep to the semester 2020B schedule. The 7 April deadline applies to all NOIRLab Standard and Survey proposals, as well as Gemini LLP proposals. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at

Update March 20, 2020:

Please note that spam filters seem to increasingly catch important messages about COVID-19, so please check your spam filter. ITO is working on getting our spam system desensitized so that it won’t catch these messages.

Update March 19, 2020:

As we end this turbulent week, we want to share with you the latest updates to NOIRLab operations and facilities due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We have all gone through a lot of change in a very short period of time and right now our new normal is working in isolation from one another. Please make sure you take advantage of the excellent resources shared by HR and remember — you are not alone. Communicate with your co-workers through all the means we have available to stay connected.

We have suspended all scientific operations at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (including SOAR, and all tenant facilities), the Gemini South telescope, and the Kitt Peak National Observatory (incl. WIYN, and all tenant facilities). The telescopes and instruments are being shut down safely over the course of this week and only a skeleton crew will remain on the mountains. These changes are needed to protect our staff and the local communities that surround our mountain top facilities.

The Gemini North telescope is closed over the weekend due to bad weather, but the instruments are being kept cold. The Gemini leadership will assess the COVID-19 situation in Hawaii on Sunday and make a decision about reopening on Monday.

The Rubin Observatory team is winding down construction activity on Cerro Pachón, as described here.

We will restrict access to our base facilities as of Monday, 23 March. If you need access for exceptional reasons after that date, please contact John Maclean (La Serena), Andy Adamson (Hilo) or Chuck Gessner (Tucson). If you need to retrieve items from your office, your manager will arrange a time for this. If your manager has not reached out to you and you need to retrieve items, then please come in between Friday and Sunday and let your manager know.

As communicated March 16: If you want to borrow other equipment from your office, such as a larger monitor, please discuss this with your supervisor who will register the equipment numbers with ITO. You may borrow your office chair if you do not have a suitably ergonomic one at home. Register this loan with your local facilities manager.

Update March 18, 2020:

The situation in Chile is moving very quickly, with the Chilean government closing all schools on Monday and closing its borders to foreigners on Wednesday. We have decided that the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (including SOAR, and all tenant facilities), the Gemini South telescope and the Kitt Peak National Observatory (incl. WIYN, and all tenant facilities) will be suspending all scientific operations. The telescopes and instruments will be shut down safely over the course of this week and only a skeleton crew will remain on the mountains.  

Scientific operations are still continuing at Gemini North with remote observing and limited day-time summit crews. 

We are working on a plan to restrict access to our base facilities. It is expected that this plan will be put into implementation this week. More information will be shared as soon as it is available.

HR web page with medical info

We understand the spread of COVID-19 is creating anxiety for each of us, our family, friends, community, etc. and to provide an additional resource we have set up a webpage on the HR website to provide benefits information regarding COVID-19. On this site you will find links to COVID-19 information from the AURA benefits carriers, TeleMed/Online access to remote Healthcare, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) information, and other information.

Update March 17, 2020:

COVID-19 affidavit in Chile

We ask all visitors to Chile, as well as staff, who have been outside Chile in the last 30 days, to fill out this COVID-19 affidavit form (also available as a PDF for printing), if you have not done so already. Complete the form electronically and email the file to You will receive an email notification of approval or denial, usually within 1 business day.

For people who do not have internet access:

  1. Collect a paper copy from the Recinto guardhouse  
  2. Complete the form
  3. Leave completed form with the guards  
  4. You will receive notification (via email if you provided an email address, or a phone call if you only provided a phone number) of approval or denial, usually within 1 business day

The procedure for persons processing the affidavit is here.

Gemini Observing Proposals

Proposals for Director’s Discretionary time for both Gemini North and South are not being accepted until at least 15 April 2020.

We will not solicit Fast Turnaround Proposals for the 31 March deadline. We will be working with the National Gemini Offices to determine any changes to the Gemini 2020B Proposal deadline.

Important COVID-19 information from Human Resources

The health and safety of AURA staff is our top priority. We encourage everyone to remain calm, follow the recommended hygiene protocols, and stay informed. Sites for information on the COVID-19 virus include: the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Department of Health for the city and state in which you are located and the Ministry of Health for those of you in Chile.

Personal privacy is a key requirement and does not change during the pandemic. We need to ensure that we do not recklessly share personal information about ourselves and our fellow employees. Questions regarding time off, remote working, travel, or other personal concerns or questions about COVID-19 related matters should be directed to HR. General questions regarding COVID-19 may also be submitted to this email and will be directed to the responsible person.

We need to work together in a calm and responsible manner to support AURA’s mission even as we ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, vendors and visitors.

What AURA needs from everyone:

  • If you are ill, please do not come to work. If you are at work when you start to feel sick, inform your supervisor and go home.
  • Avoid physical contact with others (shaking hands, kisses on cheeks, etc.)
  • Exhibit caution regarding personal activities and visitors to your homes
  • Practice proper hygiene
  • Minimize or cancel work-related travel. All travel will need to be essential and approved by Center and Program Directors in accordance with previously established directives. 
  • Take caution in personal travel
  • Schedule videoconferences instead of face to face meetings when possible

For Expats and US-Based Employees:

If you are currently teleworking or expect to telework in the future, please fill out the Emergency Teleworking form

Chilean Employees have received a notice of contract amendment reflecting telework. If your manager has asked you to telework, then you can sign the amendment from home and send it back to HR by email.

AURA is taking active measures to limit the potential for staff to be exposed to COVID-19 within our facilities through

  • Additional cleaning of common areas 
  • Providing personal hygiene materials online and throughout our buildings
  • Postponing or canceling meetings, workshops, and other events that would require groups of people to meet
  • Restricting who may enter our facilities and performing additional checks on visitors prior to entry to our facilities utilizing established procedures 
  • The closure of recreational areas in and on AURA premises
  • Development of processes to address issues and concerns generated from COVID-19
  • Assessment of remote working arrangements where feasible to promote social distancing
  • Other Social Distancing initiatives

The following addresses several specific issues:

Employees and/or vendors new to a facility

  • May be required to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days based on established procedures
  • HR should be contacted to provide guidance on the situation

Employees concerned about their personal health

  • Stay at home and notify manager
  • Contact your doctor
  • Inform HR

Employees concerned about personal vulnerability 

  • Contact HR for guidance

Employees concerned about family member vulnerability 

  • Contact HR for guidance

Employees concerned about another employee’s health

  • Contact HR for guidance

Employees in need of reasonable accommodation 

  • Contact HR for guidance

Employee’s family member is ill with COVID-19 type symptoms

  • Employee will remain offsite until 14 days after the family member is asymptomatic
  • Contact HR for guidance

Employee’s family member is confirmed to have COVID-19

  • Employee will remain offsite for a minimum of 14 days after the family member is confirmed to be virus-free
  • Contact HR for guidance
  • HR will assess potential contacts and inform accordingly
  • Staff will be informed as appropriate

Employee with COVID-19

  • Employee will need to remain offsite for the duration of illness and must provide documentation of a clean bill of health prior to returning to AURA facilities
  • Contact HR for guidance
  • HR will assess potential contacts and address accordingly
  • AURA will follow direction from the local authorities 
  • Staff will be informed as appropriate

Recent visitor to AURA facility is confirmed with COVID-19

  • Contact HR for guidance
  • HR will assess employee contact and provide appropriate guidance
  • AURA will follow direction from the appropriate authorities
  • Staff will be informed as appropriate

Update March 16, 2020:


In light of the latest COVID-19 developments, we are moving towards maximum telework from 16 March until at least 30 March 2020. At the same time, our operations are also being ramped down in a safe way at all our Chilean and Arizona sites preparing the summits to only be operated by a skeleton crew with no science observations being performed. Operations in Hawaii continue, but with reduced staff.

Having staff work from home is a key tool in the fight to keep the virus out of our community and to slow the spread within our regions through social distancing. We are in the process of asking managers to work with their teams to identify as many people who can work from home as soon as possible. For some of you, this means working from home starting today Monday, 16 March 2020. We need this process to be both prompt and orderly. We are working with HR in Chile to ensure that the needed contract amendments are developed, however please do not let the paperwork get in the way of your telework if already agreed with your manager 

We understand that not all jobs can be conducted remotely and that not all staff are presently set up to work from home. Managers and the IT team are working to address the second item and the local operations teams are working to identify which roles are essential to core operations and can be conducted safely, and other impacts on our Programs of moving to remote work. Contact your manager directly for more information about your particular situation.

The AURA Central Administrative Services team is working to set up account billing codes to address teleworking and the team in Chile is hard at work on contract modifications that will support teleworking. We are in close contact with the US National Science Foundation and other stakeholders.

We appreciate your support and cooperation as we make this transition. No doubt there will be many questions and challenges to resolve. Please work with your manager to support an orderly transition. Do not hesitate to contact your local HR professional regarding questions about working arrangements. 

We have identified local leads to manage this process at each site. In Chile this is John Maclean; in Hawaii it is Andy Adamson. Mario Hamuy (Head of Mission) leads our interaction with the Chilean government and keeps us up to date regarding new policies and regulations. Lori Allen and Adam Bolton are working with the MSO and CSDC teams in Tucson to manage their transition to teleworking. Pat McCarthy serves as the local point of contact in Tucson and he and Beth Willman lead the NOIRLab wide coronavirus response team. Feel free to reach out to any of us for assistance.

Teleworking FAQ

Q: How do I start teleworking?

A: From Monday 16 March you should simply begin teleworking. You may wish to set up an out-of-office message explaining that you are working remotely, and how best to contact you. All NOIRLab phone systems also provide call-forwarding functions. Please contact ITO staff if you need further assistance.

Q: How long will these measures apply?

A: They will apply until at least 30 March so please organize yourself for this period in the first instance. The measures will be reviewed regularly to ensure their continued applicability.

Q: What if I need some equipment from my office?

A: If you need to collect your laptop, please try to do it on Monday before you leave. If you want to borrow other equipment from your office, such as a larger monitor, please discuss it with your supervisor who will register the equipment numbers with ITO. You may borrow your office chair if you do not have a suitably ergonomic one at home. Register this loan with your local facilities manager.

Q: Do I really have to do teleworking?

A: Yes, by working from home, you not only protect yourself, but also reduce the risk for the limited number of colleagues who do have to be on-site.

Q: What if I need to go into the office occasionally?

A: We will not be shutting down the sites completely, so it will still be possible to enter occasionally if necessary. If you need to go into the office, for example to collect documents or to work in a laboratory, or machine shop please discuss it with your supervisor first. After-hours brief visits are preferable.

Q: What if I can only do my job on-site?

Supervisors will contact the staff members who work mostly in laboratories or workshops, or have tasks which strictly require physical presence at the site, and cannot easily work from home. For the time being, these staff members shall continue working on-site to the extent possible. We recognize that managers may need to rearrange work priorities during this period. We are committed to finding a workable and pragmatic solution for everyone.

Q: What if I can’t actually do work at home?

Work should be attempted on a best-efforts basis. Otherwise, if you really cannot work at home because of circumstances at home, e.g. young children, or caring for a sick relative, lack of Internet, please talk to your supervisor. Each case will be reviewed according to the situation, of course with pragmatism and compassion in mind, and trusting that each colleague will behave responsibly. 

Q: Do I have to do the teleworking at my home residence? Am I required to stay in the country of my work location?

A: teleworking, in general, is not restricted to your home/place of residence. You can work from elsewhere if necessary, for example, to be closer to family, including if it is in a different country. Please be aware however of travel restrictions and risk areas (which are changing rapidly), and do not put yourself in unnecessary risk. Also, you need to be able to return to the workplace when restrictions are lifted without undue delay. Please also ensure that where you are you have an appropriate workplace set up.

Q: What about when I’m not working?

A: Outside of NOIRLab, we are also relying on you to follow ‘social-distancing’ recommendations and the advice of the local authorities in general. We all need to work together to reduce the spread of COVID-19, not just to protect ourselves and colleagues, but also more vulnerable members of the communities in which we live. If you continue to interact as normal outside of work, these measures will be in vain.

If you have annual leave booked during this period, please remember to adjust your out of office message accordingly and it would be helpful to remind your supervisor of your dates and the location of your leave.

Q: Where can I find NOIRLab’s current information about the COVID-19 crisis. 

A: On this page: NOIRLab intranet COVID-19.

Travel restrictions

CDC has issued a level 3 health advisory for Europe, South Korea, Iran and China, and level 2 for the rest of the World. 

We are implementing the following additional guidelines for international and domestic work-related travel for all NOIRLab-employees and AURA/NOIRLab-funded travel.   

International Work Travel 

Work-related international travel by NOIRLab employees is to be halted immediately, with exceptions only as approved on a case-by-case basis by the NOIRLab Director. 

If you have concerns about duty travel, discuss it with your supervisor to decide if the travel should be canceled, or to decide if videoconferencing is an option.

Domestic Work Travel

Work-related domestic travel by NOIRLab employees in the U.S. and Chile, must be approved by your Program Director or Service Director/Head.

We have proactively converted a number of upcoming meetings (e.g. DESI Science Collaboration, Rubin Ops Director’s Review) from in-person to virtual meetings. We will continue to monitor the status of the outbreak and make decisions on meetings as appropriate.

Personal Travel

Concerning personal travel, we urge staff to use prudent judgment and to be sensitive to the risks to which you may be exposing yourself while traveling. Staff who have traveled via airplane or cruise ship, particularly abroad, within the last two weeks must contact Human Resources about their responsibilities to their co-workers or other workplace obligations. Staff returning from any trip, personal or professional, may be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return.

We will coordinate teleworking arrangements with employees who are faced with a self-quarantine situation to the extent possible. In some instances, it may be necessary to use sick leave during the self-quarantine period if appropriate telework arrangements cannot be arranged.

Gemini Science Meeting

The Gemini Science Meeting scheduled for June 2020 is postponed. All who have paid their registration fee for this meeting will receive a refund. There are plans to reschedule the meeting in Korea next year. Updates for next year’s meeting will be sent to all who registered for this year’s meeting and we invite all others to subscribe to updates at

Time Allocation Committee (TAC)

We have decided to change the US Semester 2020B Time Allocation Committee (TAC) meetings from in-person to virtual. Deadlines and meeting dates will remain the same. Participation will be via a remote connection. No external TAC panelists should travel to Tucson for this meeting, local panelists (except for Tucson-based AURA employees) should also participate remotely, and no AURA-staff not based in Tucson may travel to Tucson to participate.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Program Head, NOIRLab TAC Verne V. Smith or TAC Coordinator, Mia Hartman.

Visitors to NOIRLab facilities

International travel to our facilities has been halted, with exceptions only as approved by the NOIRLab Director.

All meetings will be conducted via telecon or videoconference. 

High-Risk Individuals 

Some individuals are at greater risk than others from the effects of COVID-19. If you believe that you are in a high-risk group, please contact your local HR professional, Program Director, or Patrick McCarthy to discuss working from home as soon as you feel the need.

If you develop symptoms

Staff who appear to be unwell for any reason should stay home until they are well per normal AURA policy and follow CDC’s recommendations.

As usual, staff members in the U.S. should utilize sick time, and staff members in Chile should follow the process currently in place for time off for illness. After you have been out for three days, you should notify HR

ONLY IN CHILE: Processes related to Medical Licenses will follow the same course imposed by law: The medical license must be delivered by the employee, or on behalf of the employee, within the next 48 hours of being issued. Given the current situation in the country, the preferred method is an electronic medical license expressly addressed to Human Resources.

Similarly, if you are unwell and do not have paid time off available, then HR should be notified.

Public visits and events

We are suspending all public visits at all sites, as well as public events, media visits and classroom visits in all NOIRLab locations until further notice.

DESI commissioning 

The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) has been suspended  out of concern to both the safety of the DESI team and the instrument itself. DESI is in a safe state. 

Further Mitigation Strategies

The Lab Leadership Team is developing contingency plans, examining operations at each of our sites, and considering possible impacts of COVID-19 on activities other than travel. Recognizing that the COVID-19 situation may evolve rapidly, we will provide regular updates on this Intranet page.

Hand-hygiene stations have been installed in several locations, and you are encouraged to make use of them. Public areas and buses are also being disinfected more frequently than usual. The cleaning teams disinfect all door handles and toilet areas. 

Please take care to not stigmatize people, who are affected by these restrictions. 

In the meantime, use common-sense measures to protect yourself and those with whom you come in contact by taking precautions recommended by the CDC. This includes washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizers with 60% to 95% alcohol if handwashing is not available, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing, avoiding contact with sick people, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. If you are sick do not come to work — coordinate with your supervisor before returning to work.

Read more on the AURA website.

Last update: 2020-03-24 09:00 COT