Anti-COVID measures in an Antarctic research station

This message briefly describes how an anti-science government science organization freely makes up rules and regulations.

I work at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, 800 miles north of the South Pole.  Hearing this, you might be wishing to trade places to escape the craziness of COVID, but in reality, being in the States garners more freedoms.

When COVID first spread throughout the world, they stopped flying personnel south.  The timing was OK since it was the start of winter and there would be few flights for personnel changes, anyway.

PAE-ASC (Antarctica Support Contract) along with the NSF (National Science Foundation) then implemented a COVID screening process to anyone going to the ice.  This process included flying to San Francisco and staying in a managed hotel from which you could not leave the grounds.  During that time, a negative COVID test was required to process further to Christchurch, New Zealand.  The program booked a private charter flight to reduce COVID contact.  Upon arrival in Christchurch, per N.Z. government regulations, any person arriving from outside the country was required to stay in a government-managed isolation facility for two weeks and required two negative COVID tests, one per week, before being released.

But it was still not over yet; once departing the N.Z. government isolation facility, we take a private van to another managed isolation hotel.  During this trip, masking and social distancing are required at all times — as it was throughout the whole process.

Due to unpredictable weather patterns, delays can be anywhere from a few days to several weeks, and —  you guessed it — you cannot leave your hotel at all.  Mind you, N.Z. has zero COVID cases.

(A normal summer season sees around 1,000 personnel; with COVID, the numbers at McMurdo dwindled to around 300.)

Now, when you finally make it to the ice, after a month in isolation and multiple COVID tests, you just want some sort of freedom and normalcy.  Well, not so fast!

They have different levels of COVID conditions: red, yellow, and green, and this latest season, a new release, blue.  This changes whenever a flight comes in.

[Note: We have been advised that the image that was originally here is proprietary, so we have removed it.

For those wondering what was in the image, it was a chart describing seven activities. For each activity, as the risk of COVID appeared to increase, it mandated increasing restrictions on those activities. We are all familiar with this type of escalating response, whether increased mandates for washing one's hands to rules for masks and social distancing.]

If it is green and a plane arrives, we go to level yellow for one week.  Mask and social distance at all times during work and personal hours.  At the end of a long day, you can't wait to get back to your room.  Oh, wait — you have roommates, too!  How can you implement these rules and yet have everyone live together?

Last summer season, everyone had his own room, but this is changing this season as the NSF is ramping up production.  But what happens if there are multiple planes in one week, or one arrives on day 7 from the last one?  Well, you guessed it: it all starts over again.  That means depending on flight schedule, you will be in "level yellow" for months.  Sounds like so much fun.

I would like to keep my name anonymous, as I am a current employee and don't want to lose my job.  If you don't follow their rules, you are threatened with termination, which is a loss of your bonus.  Also, they make you sign a COVID paper that states rules and regulations; if you don't follow their rules, it is grounds for termination.  We are not paid that well compared to average wages in the States.  So the little bit of a bonus is helpful.


McMurdo Station.
Photo cerdit: Gaelen Marsden, CC BY-SA 1.0 license.

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