SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — President Joe Biden on Thursday signed an executive order requiring all airline passengers to mask-up when they travel. This federal mask mandate is part of the new administration’s national COVID-19 strategy.
Masks at Sioux Falls Regional Airport have already been required for passengers ever since the city’s mandate when into effect last fall. The airport director says the federal mandate will ensure all airports are following the same rules when it comes to wearing masks.
Masks have been constant traveling companions for air passengers at Sioux Falls Regional Airport during much of the pandemic.
“It’s strange that this is our new norm, seeing masks, right? Now you look at somebody that doesn’t have one on and you’re like, um, you should be wearing a mask,” Ashley Johnson of Livingstone, Montana said.
Ashley Johnson works as a dental assistant in Montana, so she knows all about the challenges of getting people to mask up.
“It’s hard with patients and people that aren’t used to wearing them to tell them to wear them all the time, put them back over your nose and wear them the right way,” Johnson said.
But Johnson finds herself torn when it comes to the federal government requiring masks for air travelers.
“For the medical side, I totally get it, I understand it. But I also, for my personal beliefs, I believe I should be the one that keeps my health and my safety in my own hands and that’s where I struggle with it,” Johnson said.
A federal mandate is expected to have more teeth than current mask requirements now in place since it’s the federal government that regulates the airline industry.
“It certainly holds a lot more weight, I suppose, when you’re breaking a federal regulation versus an airport regulation,” Sioux Falls Regional Airport Executive Director Dan Letellier said.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think everybody needs to be safe, everybody needs to be responsible, everybody needs to care for everybody else,” Terry Soderlund of Clearwater, Florida said.
Airport officials say most travelers at the Sioux Falls terminal have been obeying the city’s mandate so shifting to a federal requirement isn’t likely to throw passengers off-course.
“Nobody likes to wear a mask. But they understand to make themselves safe and everyone around them safe, it’s something that we’re going to do,” Letellier said.
The federal mandate is in effect for 100 days and doesn’t just include air travel, but other forms of transportation as well, including buses, trains and ships.