March 19, 2020 / 5:23 PM / 13 days ago

U.S. closes air traffic control tower in Las Vegas, nearly 500 flights canceled

(Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday said it had closed the air traffic control tower at Las Vegas International Airport after a controller was presumed to have contracted COVID-19.

A flight tracking website, flightradar24.com, said nearly 500 flights had been canceled at Las Vegas airport Thursday, which is receiving flights at a reduced rate.

On Tuesday evening, a control tower at Chicago Midway International Airport was closed after three technicians tested positive for coronavirus.

Southwest Airlines said Thursday it has ceased operations at Chicago Midway and now canceled more than 200 flights after saying Wednesday it had canceled more than 50 flights. The FAA has not said when Chicago Midway will reopen.

The Las Vegas tower is being cleaned and the FAA is determining how many controllers will need to self-isolate. The tower will not open until Friday at the earliest.

Earlier on Thursday, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told employees he would self-quarantine at home for seven days after he shook hands with a member of Congress at a hearing last week that has since tested positive for COVID-19. Dickson said he is feeling fine and has no symptoms.

Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Franklin Paul and Chris Reese

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