Blue Origin ‘essential’ status concerns locals

By Lisa Morton

Culberson County Judge Carlos Urias reached-out to Texas Test Operations and Site Leader William Meadows of Blue Origin LLC, for a statement on their health and safety practices at the local space facility, amid community concerns for a tentatively scheduled launch. Meadows forwarded County Judge Carlos Urias a white paper that Blue prepared to communicate to government stakeholders “their commitment to ensuring the safety of our employees and the safety of the communities in which we operate.” The memo was dated March 27, 2020, before the company confirmed that at least 3 employees at the Kent, Washington facility had contracted COVID-19.

The memo from Mr. Meadow advises that employees who are onsite at the Blue Origin facilities are following the CDC recommendations on physical distancing measures with regular reminders for employees to properly wash their hands.

Washington state had some of the first COVID-19 cases in the United States starting on the 1st of March. Kent, Washington has been one of the hardest hit with 3,460 confirmed cases and 226 deaths in just over one month.

Texas has seen, 9,353 cases with 177 deaths. Nationally, 434,791 cases with 14,802 deaths. Worldwide, 1,484,811 cases and 88,538 deaths.

The white paper states that “by protecting our employees, we’re also protecting the communities where we operate. We are minimizing our footprint and interactions in our communities and requiring social distancing. For our employees who need to travel during this time, we will not allow anyone to work (much less travel) who has any flu-like symptoms or has been exposed to anyone with symptoms. If employees have been exposed to anyone with any symptoms, we are requiring them to self-quarantine for a minimum of two weeks, per CDC guidance. This is for their protection as well as the protection of the community they are visiting.”

“In each of our communities, we work closely with the local and state officials to follow their specific guidance, solicit their input, inform them about our safety provisions and on-going operations, and insure we stay tightly coordinated.” Our employees are also actively looking at ways to best serve our local communities in this time of crisis. Our sites have donated surplus products (e.g. N95 masks) to local medical facilities and our employees are volunteering with community-based organizations.”

Judge Carlos Urias told The Advocate that he reached out to Mr. Meadows yesterday about local residents expressing their concern that Blue Origin may be continuing their plans to launch in the near future. Fears intensified after an article by KVIA/7 news appeared on social media about the possibility of bringing Blue Origin employees from high-risk areas to Culberson County, which has no COVID-19 cases to this point. Mr. Meadows reassured Judge Urias that no launch is planned for the near future or until the current restrictions have been lifted and reported that many of the Blue employees are working from home and have the same quarantine requirements as anyone else in Texas.


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