The air traffic control tower at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport was closed until at least Jan. 31 by the Federal Aviation Administration after staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a brief statement, the FAA said the temporary closure should not affect travel in and out of the airport, at 14700 Terminal Boulevard in Clearwater. The airspace will be monitored by the air traffic control tower at nearby Tampa International Airport.
“The FAA has a robust contingency plan for every air traffic control facility, and remains positioned to quickly address the effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” the agency said in a statement.
“The agency continually monitors controller staffing and traffic demand, and remains in close contact with airports, airlines and other stakeholders so we can prioritize our resources to meet the greatest demand.”
According to a real-time coronavirus tracking map on the FAA’s website, personnel working in the tower at St. Pete-Clearwater International tested positive for the coronavirus Jan. 20. No information was immediately available on how many personnel contracted or the disease or are at risk due to exposure.
As of mid-day Sunday, the tower at the airport — abbreviated as PIE — was the only tower in Florida closed due to the coronavirus.
In the release, the FAA said COVID-19 cleaning continues in all air traffic control facilities, usually overnight when fewer staff members are working.
During the cleanings, those on the job work from designated backup locations, such as airline ramp towers.
The cleanings initially took six to eight hours to complete, but through partnerships with local medical experts and cleaning agencies the process now takes as little as 90 minutes, the agency said.
“Every ATC (air traffic control) facility has a backup plan in case it has to temporarily close,” the FAA said. “This has been the case for many years and is not related to COVID-19.”
Passengers planning to travel through the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport during the pandemic can review the PIE COVID-19 Action Plan online at fly2pie.com.