Virgin Galactic said Monday that it no longer plans to conduct a key test flight of its spacecraft this week because of a surge in new Covid-19 cases and resulting related restrictions in New Mexico, home to the company’s glitzy spaceport.
New Mexico has reported over 1,000 new cases each day for the past ten days, according to Johns Hopkins University. Business activity and large gatherings have been banned in the state through at least November 30.
Virgin Galactic, which had been operating as an “essential business” at its manufacturing and development facilities in California, was expected to conduct its first-ever test flight at its New Mexico spaceport. That’s the location that Galactic hopes wealthy thrill seekers will flock to before they board one of the companies rocket-powered planes for a brief trip to the edge of space.
That test flight was expected to take off this week, but the company said in a statement they had consulted with New Mexico officials and decided to reschedule the flight. There is no new predicted test flight date in place.
Virgin Galactic’s statement also said the company plans to minimize its operations in New Mexico.
But operations in California, where the company still has large facilities and is working to manufacture several more space planes, will continue, a Virgin Galactic spokesperson told CNN Business. More than 10,000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported by the California Department of Public Health Sunday. California is also implementing new guidelines urging residents to stay home and restrict travel during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The United States overall is experience a surge in Covid-19 infections, making virtually the entire country a hotspot for the virus. US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said all Americans must wear masks and double down on safety precautions, as the next few months are expected to be the worst of the pandemic.
“Record cases over the past week will be record hospitalizations soon. Our/ YOUR communities and hospitals simply can not sustain high level care at this rate of increase,” Adams said in a tweet Monday.
Nationwide, more than 11 million people in the US have been infected with coronavirus, and more than 246,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Investors appeared to be displeased by Virgin Galactic’s decision to follow state health official’s advice. The company’s stock price plunged 6% during trading hours on Monday.