I support President Joe Biden’s proposed mask mandate for anyone on federal or interstate property (”Day One: Biden to undo Trump policies on climate change, coronavirus, immigration,” Jan. 20). However, my Saturday evening flight from Denver to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport on Jan. 17 reflects why such a mandate needs specific new enforcement authority, training and resources to be effective. There should also be penalties because the defiance of individuals who will not wear masks is a continuing threat particularly as a more easily transmitted mutation of COVID-19 spreads.
Departing from the Denver airport, I noticed several passengers at the gate for my Southwest Airlines flight who were not wearing masks. However, both the Southwest Airlines gate representative, as well as a team of TSA officers at the gate (to spot check D.C.-bound passengers) and who also noticed the maskless passengers told me “We don’t have authority to do that.”
Upon arrival at BWI, there was a surprising lack of visible law enforcement or security guards including at baggage claim, where several maskless passengers stood defiantly near carousels. One security guard, whom I stopped as she was leaving the airport, told me, “I just got off work,” and another at a security desk in an adjacent part of the airport told me, “I can’t leave my post.” I asked if she could call someone else to assist.
After collecting my baggage, I looked up the phone number of the BWI Airport police and was told by a very professional officer: “Sir, unfortunately our staff levels have been impacted during the pandemic, and now we are supporting the effort to guard the Maryland [State House] in Annapolis.” I asked if this didn’t leave BWI Airport without sufficient security or monitors. He responded: “There’s nothing we can do.”
Steven L. Katz, Rockville
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