Chicago’s Midway Airport Halts Flights Due To COVID-19 In Air Traffic Control Tower

The incident is a reminder that the growing pandemic has the ability to interrupt key services and military readiness.

byTyler Rogoway|
U.S. Homeland photo


As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold in the U.S. and around the world, one of the first signs of how such a pandemic can impact critical services has reared its ugly head at Chicago's bustling Midway Airport. A ground stop was called after three technicians that work in the tower tested positive for the virus. The tower was cleared as per the CDC's recommendations and operations are set to resume, but at a reduced capacity using different air traffic handling procedures directed through a remote facility.  

Midway Airport supports roughly 680 flight operations per day, so the result of the closure and reduction in throughput will be felt. The highly infectious nature of the virus means that even critical support and infrastructure operations could feel its impact as time goes on. Everything from electricity to sewage takes constant labor to remain operational. 

The military is facing similar challenges, albeit to an even more pressing degree in terms of its personnel's health, as service people often work together in very tight conditions, such as those in armored vehicles, command and control and missile alert facilities, ships and submarines, and aircraft. Even individuals that are not traditionally confined to the inside of a vehicle, but have to work closely together, such as infantry, are also vulnerable to this type of outbreak, which could drastically reduce the military's readiness if it were to accelerate out of control. 

More cases of COVID-19 are emerging in the military as a whole, with new cases appearing on the Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado earlier today. The Defense Department is assessing the risk to its service people, employees, and contractors in this regard, but at a certain point, the tradeoffs between risk mitigation and operational readiness will be unavoidable.   

We will update this post with more information as it comes available. 

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