COVID-19 Updates


July 13, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

We’ve gotten a good start on performing physics experiments on DIII-D. The Physics Restart Working Group will be considering whether revisions are needed to our recommendations, but overall, it seems everybody is doing an outstanding and productive job maintaining progress.

Several bits of news on the COVID-19 front:

  1. Each time there is a positive COVID-19 diagnosis at any GA or GA Aeronautical site, a “COVID-19 - Updated Building Status Report” email (mostly content-free) is sent to all employees. Between April 2 and today there have been 56 of these. However, very few of them actually impact the Torrey Pines site where we work. I informed you of two of these on June 22; there has since been one additional case reported, confined to building G01 between June 16 and 30.
  2. Since the announcements rely on details only available on the GA corporate intranet, which non-GA employees can’t access, I will let you know immediately if there is news impacting buildings G13, G15, G34, or the cafeteria.
  3. Many of you asked me about the apparent requirement that we wear facial coverings even while alone in our offices as implied by my July 1 email. I asked for clarification on that, and the correct guidance is (the italicized text is new):
    • Per company policy, face coverings must be worn at all times (except while enjoying a meal) while on GA properties. This also includes when you are in your office and interacting with someone 6 feet away from you or in a large room with one or more person. Face coverings, social distancing, and frequent workspace cleanliness must be practiced together to be as effective as possible to avoid exposures.
  4. GA company policy continues to be in keeping with current County orders: “All essential and reopened businesses that remain in operation in accordance with the Order shall make every effort to use telecommuting for their workforces.” Since GA is considered “essential,” you may choose to work on campus, but it is not encouraged unless you have hands-on work you must do at DIII-D.
  5. We are doing what we can to keep our areas in Buildings G13 and G15 as safe as possible, but obviously we can’t be perfect. And once again, you may make a personal choice to be working there, but it is not encouraged. Largely through the efforts of Anastasia Nycum, you should find a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a mask in your office when you return. Anastasia has also worked with GA Facilities to ensure that the hand sanitizer dispensers in the hallways are properly placed and stocked, and that the water bottle fillers (not the drinking fountains) are turned on and usable. I’ve also heard a lot of reports of soap dispensers being empty, but usually they’ve just lost their prime and you need to keep trying to get the soap flowing again. If you find something out-of-sorts, please report it to your group’s administrative assistant or directly to facilities - these things don’t magically fix themselves!
  6. There have been some discussions at the GA corporate level of “return to campus” (changed from “return to work” in recognition of everybody’s strong efforts to work remotely) activities, but as long as the trends are negative as they have been, you shouldn’t expect anything to change.

The attached file includes some information from GA Business Continuity, anticipating more people returning (eventually) to campus, that may be useful to you. If you have any questions I will try to either answer or find out the answer.

Stay safe!

July 1, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

As we get ready to begin physics operations, I expect we will start to see more of us coming back to work on-site. I just want to remind you all that it is imperative that we all continue to follow the rules that have been put in place by the state, county, and General Atomics to protect all of us.

I have heard some anecdotal reports of people forgetting to wear their face coverings on-site. Please keep in mind that this is a requirement of the county and the company (applies to the site, not just GA employees). People who are not observing this requirement can be barred from entering the GA campus.


Begin forwarded message:


  • Because we work in a critical infrastructure sector and some of our roles are required to be on-site, whether full-time or as needed, employees are encouraged to be as safe as possible by practicing health precautions at home and in public.
  • What we do outside of work can affect us on-site at work.
  • If you have come into direct contact with someone who has a confirmed positive COVID-19 case, please inform me immediately, stay at home and please do not come on-site. I will work with you to ensure further exposure does not occur. We have all seen the uptick in Business Continuity emails communicating the new building status reports of positive COVID-19 cases, and all of us should do our part to be as healthy as possible.
  • If you experience illness symptoms of any kind, please inform me immediately, stay at home and please do not come on-site. I will work with you to ensure further exposure does not occur.
  • Per company policy, face coverings must be worn at all times (except while enjoying a meal) while on GA properties. This also includes when you are in your office alone or in a large room with one or more person. Face coverings, social distancing, and frequent workspace cleanliness must be practiced together to be as effective as possible to avoid exposures.
  • Temperature screenings are required at some GA locations in order for you to be permitted on-site. If you have a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, you will not be allowed on-site and will be asked to go home.
  • Carpooling with others for any reason (lunch, going to another building, etc.) does not meet social distancing requirements. The only exception is if you are carpooling with someone who lives in the same home as you.

June 22, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

You may have heard of several recent instances of positive COVID-19 diagnoses impacting GA sites. I just wanted to assure you that none of these impact the Torrey Pines site or the Magnet Technology Center. They have mainly been at ASI and other remote GA sites.

The only confirmed cases impacting Torrey Pines were on May 7-21 and March 10-24. None of these cases involved Buildings 13 or 15, although in each case the person who was later tested positive may have visited the cafeteria in Building 7.

I am continuing to monitor these reports and will let you know if there are any positive cases that could impact those of us who are working on site.

I should remind you that GA is still encouraging (but not requiring) those of us who can telecommute to continue doing so. If you do feel it necessary to come on site please remember that facial coverings and social distancing are required under state and county law and GA company policy.


April 28, 2020

This information comes from Although targeted toward visitors, it really applies to all of us.


To the customers, suppliers, contractors, collaborators and other visitors of General Atomics and its affiliates:

We understand the growing concern as the scope of the COVID-19 outbreak continues to increase. The health, safety and well-being of our community on or off-campus are our top priorities.

All of us are responsible for taking preventative measures to minimize the risks and potential spread of COVID-19.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or you believe that you have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 and have recently visited any of our facilities, please immediately notify General Atomics’ HR Department at 1-858-455-3075.

We continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and urge everyone to take necessary precautions for health and safety purposes. Among the process and procedures we have implemented:

Travel/Meetings: All non-essential business travel and in-person meetings have been suspended by General Atomics. Use of teleconference and/or web-based meetings is recommended.

GA Facility Visitors: All visitors of General Atomics may be verbally pre-screened upon arrival for symptoms of COVID-19. At certain General Atomics facilities, all individuals will be subject to a temperature screen. Those individuals who have a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) will not be permitted access. Any individual who suspects he/she is ill should not visit a General Atomics facility, especially if the individual is experiencing any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, headache, chills, repeated shaking with chills, sore throat, and/or new loss of taste or smell.

Facial Coverings: All visitors must wear a facial covering while on a General Atomics facility.

On-site Suppliers/Collaborators: All Suppliers/Collaborators’ are to follow his/her respective General Atomics host’s instructions regarding reporting to work at a General Atomics facility. If the host instructs the individual to report to a General Atomics facility, and such instruction does not conflict with direction from the individual’s employer, the individual must take necessary precautions when working on-site to protect the health and well-being of the individual and others. Any suspicion of illness should be taken seriously, and the individual must not report to work at a General Atomics facility if the individual is experiencing any of the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, headache, chills, repeated shaking with chills, sore throat, and/or new loss of taste or smell.

Thank you for your cooperation during this time.

April 20, 2020

FROM: DIII-D Program Director
TO: DIII-D Program
Subject: Update on Machine Status and Plans going forward
Date: April 19, 2020

I wanted to provide a short update on machine status and our plans for Experimental Operations in FY20. Since my last update on April 3rd, the Operations Team has continued to make progress on testing DIII-D systems needed for the restart of the experimental program.

The power systems are fully tested and ready, basic diagnostics have been tested and are ready for operations (Thomson, CO2, SPRED, and magnetics), we have successfully run ohmic plasmas, and the cryo system has been restarted and is making liquid He again. Progress on the Helicon ex-vessel system is continuing with the target of being ready to inject power into the new antenna by mid-summer. The next step in machine readiness is to begin NB conditioning and plasma cleaning operation with NB injection. This work has been done under the challenging protocols of maintaining social distancing and maximizing the use of remote operation.

Since it is likely that any near-term operation of DIII-D during this fiscal year would require a continuation of these basic protocols, we have been evaluating which experiments can be performed successfully and effectively with diagnostic systems and personnel arrangements that match these protocols. However, no date has been established for the restart of experimental operations.

Without knowing exactly what new protocols will be established and when collaborating research teams will be returning to work at the DIII-D site, our goal is to bring the facility to the point of operational readiness needed to carry out the experimental program consistent with relevant protocols at that time. A range of scenarios and options are being explored and discussed with DOE and the DIII-D Executive Committee.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of all those in the DIII-D program that have been working hard in this challenging environment to prepare DIII-D for a rapid return to research operation when conditions permit.

Dave Hill

April 5, 2020

To: DIII-D Team

The DIII-D operations group has completed a number of tasks over the past week enabling successful operation of ohmic discharges on Thursday and Friday. Work also continued on the cryo system recovery and many other tasks.

In parallel, the science team carried out an analysis to identify experiments that can be carried out with a reduced set of diagnostics within present COVID-19 guidelines. We will now be examining and developing capabilities and protocols for carrying out these experiments and operating diagnostics moving forward.

We are also reviewing all on-site project and operations-related activities and preparing updated protocols for safe execution of these activities consistent with the latest guidelines.

Naturally, these plans will be strongly dependent on the evolving COVID-19 situation in San Diego, in California, and across the nation; no official timeline for resumption of experimental operation has been adopted nor expected at this time.

Finally, I would like to remind all DIII-D participants to follow their employer's instructions, policies, and guidance regarding COVID-19 actions and recommendations as the situation evolves.

Up-to-date GA/DIII-D site status information may be found at

This message is also posted at:

Dave Hill

Director, DIII-D National Fusion Program

March 27, 2020

As announced late last week, General Atomics and the DIII-D facility are remaining open. The purpose of this memo is to chart the course for the DIII-D program as we navigate the uncertain waters associated with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. As always, our highest priority goals focus on maintaining a safe work environment for all staff and enabling the DIII-D team to deliver excellent science supporting fusion energy research. We will not operate the facility if we cannot meet these goals, and we will pursue other tasks while we remain open. Given present uncertainties, we cannot target a fixed number of weeks of operation this year, nor do we have confidence in a definitive date for restart of the research program. What we can do is work safely and purposely to move the program forward as best possible.

This week we have been able to operate the machine for testing power systems and performing magnetic calibrations. Maintaining social distancing has required significant changes to our normal mode of operation, as is evident from a nearly empty control room with no physics operators and no diagnostic personnel. As we progress into Tokamak operations for plasma cleaning and diagnostic calibrations, the challenges of operation with much of the diagnostic and research staff working either off-site or in their offices will increase significantly as we continue moving into our research program.

Over the next few days we will be working with the Operations and Science teams to examine which diagnostic systems can be run remotely or with minimal on-site staff support using available GA personnel, starting with the information provided in the reports from the Extended Operations Working Groups. The diagnostic group leads will be queried to determine if their systems can be run within the new constraints and if not, what can be done to get them into that state. Based on this analysis, a list of system enhancements to enable remote operation and reduce needs for on-site staff support will be pursued. Given the large number of systems and their complexity, it will not be feasible to provide resources to all systems to achieve this goal. Therefore, our resources will be focused on a reduced set of diagnostic systems that will be identified as critical to operating the device and providing high quality research.

In parallel with this effort by the diagnostic teams, we will be asking our research teams to examine which experiments can be successfully completed with expected diagnostics and limited on-site staff. We will only be executing experiments that can productively make use of the experimental time, given the constraints and available diagnostics, while other experiments will be postponed until adequate diagnostic coverage is available.

The reality of this decision is that the startup duration will be longer than typical, and the restart of the research program will be delayed as we implement the enhancements needed for the key diagnostic systems. In addition, many of the experiments previously scheduled for this year will need to be deferred.

The DIII-D program has weathered difficult challenges in the past and with your participation in this effort, we are certain that we can emerge from this with a stronger program and a continued reputation for safe operation, innovation, and high-quality physics.

Dave Hill
Director, DIII-D National Fusion Program

March 26, 2020

To: DIII-D Team

Limited testing and calibration of magnetic probes and power supply is underway at the facility and will conclude on Friday. Work plans and procedures for restoring operation of the liquid helium cryoplant consistent with significantly reduced on-site staff have been developed.

In parallel, the DIII-D operations group is developing plans for different scenarios and timelines for the eventual safe return to operational status when conditions allow. Naturally, these plans will be strongly dependent on the evolving COVID-19 situation in San Diego, in California, and across the nation; no official timeline has been adopted.

Up-to-date GA/DIII-D site status information may be found at

This message is also posted at:

Dave Hill

March 23, 2020

Dear DIII-D Community

On Thursday evening, March 19th, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all individuals in California to stay at home except as needed. Following Newsom’s order, General Atomics determined that the company as a whole can maintain continuity of operation as a part of the federal critical infrastructure sectors ( This allows those who need to work to do so. The company said that all employees who can effectively perform work from home should do so, and that the company will remain open to continue business operations. We are not requiring any DIII-D staff to come to work if they choose to stay at home. Indeed, a number of collaborating institutions (e.g. PPPL and LLNL) have explicitly told all employees to remain at home and provided means for them to be paid while doing so.

As you might expect for the DIII-D Facility Operations Group, GA has a number of employees who cannot work from home, and have expressed a desire to come to work if possible, for various reasons. The testing and calibration tasks for DIII-D that we have identified for this week can be accomplished safely with staff who plan to come to work. We are taking the social isolation measures seriously and have incorporated them into carrying out the planned activities; the control room and other work areas have been and will continue to be largely empty. We will be assessing the situation throughout each day and will adjust plans as needed to maintain the health and safety of our employees. Work on many other tasks has been stopped or curtailed significantly. Resumption of research operations is on hold; plans for the following weeks are being developed and will certainly continue evolving.

Dave Hill
Director, DIII-D National Fusion Community

March 21, 2020

To: DIII-D Program Participants on site at General Atomics

General Atomics is continuing its business operations; all buildings at Torrey Pines and at the DIII-D facility remain open. If you can effectively perform your work from home, you should do so, consistent with Governor Gavin Newsom’s Stay at Home Order.

On Friday, work on the tokamak was paused to enable the Operations Group to evaluate how best to proceed towards returning DIII-D to operational status once the full scientific and technical team returns to work. In the interim, the group developed plans for safely testing selected power systems next week with minimal staff on site, starting on Tuesday. Plans for work at the facility beyond that are yet to be determined.

I want to remind all DIII-D participants to follow their employer's policies, guidance, and instructions regarding the Governor’s Executive order and other COVID-19 recommendations and actions.

Up-to-date site status information may be found at