LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Wearing a mask is nothing new in this day and age, and neither the requirement to wear a mask at the airport.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has added new provisions to air travel due to President Biden's national COVID-19 safety protocols for domestic and international travel. Travelers must wear face masks when they are in airports, bus and rail stations, and other commercial and public transportation systems.
Ian Turn, the Airport Director for LSE Regional Airport, said the mask requirement is nothing new for him or the other staff. What has changed is the fact that people who use curbside spaces for pickups and dropoffs or when leaving their vehicles are now required to wear a mask. Even those outside at the airport.
Dr. Raj Palraj, an Infection Disease specialist with Mayo Clinic Health System, said wearing masks when traveling helps stop the virus's spread. Dr. Palraj said wearing a mask is more important than ever, mostly because studies have shown multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are circulating globally.
Described by the World Health Organization as "variants of concern", the new forms of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — were first discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil in recent months.
"Mask wearing is essential because we want to limit the spread of the virus from one person to the other," Palraj said. "Studies show that many patients who don't have symptoms can spread the virus."
Lyssa Eiden, an airline passenger and someone who works in health care, said she knows all too well why mask-wearing is essential.
"Wearing a mask helps protect others," Eiden said. "Wearing a mask not only protects others, but it helps to protect yourself. Everyone has loved ones out there that we want to protect, so that is how I see it."
Turner said if people have questions about specific travel-related restrictions to COVID-19, he suggests the best place to start is with the airline they are traveling with.
The requirement to wear a mask at airports and public transportation systems will remain in effect until May 11, 2021. Failure to comply with the mask requirement can result in civil penalties.