SWEETWATER COUNTY — Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport Director Devon Brubaker informed the Sweetwater County Commissioners Tuesday that an executive order is now requiring face masks to be worn while at the airport, including areas outside the terminal building, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus.
As of 11:59 pm Monday, President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel went into effect nationally, which requires travelers to wear face masks when they are in airports, bus and rail stations, as well as while on passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads, and over-the-road buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes.
“It is now federal law that when you step foot on airport property at any airport in the country, you have to wear a mask,” Brubaker said. “In the parking lots, on the ramps, in your hangers, anywhere on airport property, it’s now federal law.”
Brubaker said that the airports staff are the ones responsible for enforcing this order. Not enforcing it could result in a $10,000 fine per occurrence.
“We are, as the airport, responsible for the enforcement of that law, which is a little daunting because I don’t carry a badge or a gun,” Brubaker said. “But if we do not enforce that law, we are subject to a $10,000 fine on each occurrence as the airport.”
In a press release issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), they said this request to wear masks at TSA airport screening checkpoints and throughout commercial and public transportation systems will remain effective until May 11, 2021.
“TSA will fully comply with the President’s Executive Orders, CDC guidance and the DHS National Emergency determination to ensure healthy and secure travel across all transportation sectors. This will help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and encourage a unified government response,” said Darby LaJoye, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the TSA Administrator. “As we continue to experience impacts from this pandemic, we are committed to this measure as the right thing to do for the TSA workforce, for our industry stakeholders and for passengers.”
Brubaker said the order is “troubling” as he has issues with having airport staff enforce an order such as this one. He said the airport staff must escort those who refuse to wear masks off the property and then must contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for further investigations.
“I’m not speaking for or against masks when I say this, but I have issues with airports, non-law enforcement officers, being charged with escorting people off public property. It’s troubling,” Brubaker said.
However, he said the airport does not have an option to not enforce this order.
“Don’t shoot the messenger, it’s by a presidential executive order and our hands our tied. We have to enforce it,” he said. “When you come to the airport, please wear a mask.”
The Sweetwater County Commissioners unanimously authorized the repayment of $1 million borrowed from Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport, which was used to complete the construction of the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport’s snow removal equipment building.
In 2020, the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport borrowed $2 million in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) Entitlement Funds for the construction of their new snow removal equipment building. Those funds were borrowed from the Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport in Gillette and the Riverton Regional Airport. The Commissioners approved for the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport to use its 2021 entitlements to pay back the Gillette airport. Brubaker said the 2022 entitlements will be allocated to paying back the Riverton airport.
Brubaker said this is an administrative transfer, meaning no actual money changes hands at the local level.