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Are people wearing masks at Spokane International Airport? Informal survey says yes

Most travelers and employees at the Spokane International Airport appear to be following Governor Jay Inslee's requirement to wear masks indoors.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Washington Governor Jay Inslee's mandate that requires face masks to be worn by people inside of businesses went into effect on Tuesday in the state's latest move to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the mandate, there have been reports of some places where mask guidelines haven't been followed in the first few days of its implementation. 

One concerned traveler reached out to KREM, saying that masks weren't being worn by a number of travelers and workers at the Spokane International Airport.

However, a KREM crew went to the airport in the early afternoon hours on Thursday, and saw that most people, workers and travelers alike, were wearing masks or face coverings of some sort.

The Spokane International Airport, in a statement to KREM, said this could be due to steps it has taken to help people follow Inslee's mandate. These include signs explaining the mandate, patrols that provide travelers with a mask if needed, and compliance from businesses and airlines at the airport.

The statement reads:

"In response to Washington state’s mandatory face covering order, The Airport has instituted a number of measures to educate the traveling public about the necessity of wearing a face covering in the terminal and other airport public areas. Examples include placing signage, making frequent public address system announcements and conducting emphasis patrols in the terminal buildings by airport staff who are carrying a supply of face coverings to provide to passengers that may be in need of one. Additionally, we have been working with our airline partners and other airport tenants to ensure their corporate policies are consistent with the Governor’s face covering order."

While many people may be wearing a mask to simply follow the rules put forth by Inslee, some people have more personal reasons to cover up.

Bailey Pennington is one such person. Pennington traveled through the Spokane International Airport from all the way down in George West, Texas, on Thursday.

He said he didn't used to wear a mask a few months ago, but after seeing someone he knows personally battle COVID-19, he changed his mind.

"If you would have asked me a couple of months ago, I definitely would have said no to the mask, but I've recently been exposed to someone and saw them really suffer from COVID, and now I'm all about it," Pennington told KREM. "I think we've got to try to do everything that we can to try to help this problem out."

Many airlines have already been requiring employees and travelers to wear masks for weeks, unless they have a medical exemption.

KREM reached out to Governor Inslee's comment for clarification on how his mandate applies to federal workers in the state. A spokesperson for the office said that federal employees working in the state have to follow the mandate as well, unless a federal law preempts it. 

So far, the spokesperson said, federal employees have been following the mask requirements.

"As you can imagine, this is a complicated issue with all the federal and state jurisdiction layers," the statement reads in part. "The governor’s face covering requirements are vital to protecting the health and welfare of everyone in Washington, including those who work for or seek services from federal agencies in our state. The state’s orders are to be followed by everyone in Washington unless there is a federal law that preempts them, which is often unclear. 

"We are pleased to see that a number of federal agencies have recognized the importance of wearing face coverings and we hope to partner with all federal agencies in our state to implement this public health measure and protect all Washingtonians they employ and serve," the statement continues. 

The governor's office also noted that the Transportation Security Administration issued a requirement for employees to wear coverings on May 7, and the U.S. Postal Service issued a requirement for all employees to wear coverings in localities where they are required on April 21.

KREM's Megan Carroll contributed to this report. 

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