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Coronavirus In Chicago: Midway Traffic Control Tower Closing After 3 Workers Test Positive For COVID-19

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The FAA is closing the air traffic control tower at Midway International Airport, after three workers there tested positive for COVID-19.

The control tower was closed at 5 p.m. Chicago time. Air traffic control operations for Midway will be temporarily moved to another FAA facility. The tower at Midway also is being cleaned and disinfected.

"The airport remains open and operations will continue at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved," the FAA said in a statement.

CBS News reports the airport will now operate one flight in, one flight out. The arriving and departing pilots will announce themselves over a common radio channel, essentially the same procedure for how one would fly into a municipal airport without a tower. Once airborne, pilots will communicate with Chicago TRACON, an FAA radar facility in Elgin. Departures will organize by departure time, and hold short of the runway until the arriving plane clears. Then the first one up will announce and take off.

The FAA's longstanding contingency plans call for services to fall back to Chicago TRACON in the event the tower goes dark. TRACON is the regional air traffic control hub that controls airspace after a plane leaves the main tower's immediate vicinity.

"The air traffic system is a resilient system with multiple backups in place. This shift is a regular execution of a longstanding contingency plan to ensure continued operations. Each facility across the country has a similar plan that has been updated and tested in recent years," the FAA said. "The safety of our staff and the traveling public is the FAA's top priority. Our controllers, inspectors and others with critical safety or security sensitive roles are essential components of our national airspace."

This is a breaking news story ... check back for updates.

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