TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Enforcing varying degrees of mask mandates at Tampa International Airport was a struggle until Thursday. President Biden wasted no time in his first full day in office, signing a federal order mandating the use of masks and face coverings for all air travelers. Airport officials hope the singular and clearly defined order will result in smoother operations.

Following through with his campaign promise, President Biden enacted a first step to ramp up strategies meant to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with mask requirements. Thursday, the President signed ten executive orders, one of which requires masks for travelers.

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The order requires travelers to wear masks in airports and on certain modes of public transportation, including trains, airplanes and intercity buses. International travelers flying to the U.S. will need to test negative for COVID-19 before departing and quarantine once they arrive.

Spokesperson for Tampa International Airport (TPA), Emily Nipps clarifies the spirit of the new law, “It is not your right to be able to travel, and so people understand that ‘If I’m flying, I’m choosing to travel, I have to wear a mask. That’s part of the deal’.” Although mask requirements have been implemented across Tampa Bay for months, there’s no room for error with the new order. Nipps acknowledges, “Having that be a rule in our Tampa Bay area for some time has really helped. And you’re seeing a lot less people using excuses to not wear their masks. This is a federal law, and if it’s a federal law, it takes out any questions.”

During his remarks from the White House Thursday, the President said the order has been further refined over the last three months with the help of his COVID-19 response team. Thankful for clarification and refinement of the laws, Nipps says enforcement has been somewhat of a balancing act within TPA, adding, “It also takes a lot of resources to enforce everybody wearing a mask. We heard a lot of complaints from people wondering why we weren’t enforcing it better. It’s just a tough thing to enforce, especially when the rules vary from county to county or from airline to airline.”

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With clear guidelines coming from the highest office, the new mandate is something Nipps expects to be a smooth transition for travelers. “It makes it a lot easier on the airports and the airlines and we’re hoping that, moving forward, it gets even easier as this becomes part of our culture, at least until the danger subsides.”


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