COVID-19: This Is the Hardest Place to Enforce Denver's New Mask Rule

A look inside Denver International Airport prior to the pandemic.
A look inside Denver International Airport prior to the pandemic. 9News file photo
As of today, May 6, Denver's new mandatory mask rule in response to COVID-19 is in effect, and violations could result in a hefty fine — though city officials suggest that warnings rather than penalties are the likeliest responses.

That's good news for the folks at Denver International Airport, arguably the most difficult place in the Mile High City at which to make sure this mandate is followed. After all, people from all over fly into the airport every day, even now, and many may have no idea about the specifics of Denver's mask edict until they land.

Granted, most major U.S. carriers now require that passengers wear masks during their flights, or will soon do so. But DIA spokesperson Alex Renteria advises customers to be proactive. "Mask requirements on flights are determined by each individual airline," he notes via email, "so we encourage passengers to check with their airline prior to their flight."

When asked about the odds of a passenger simply not having a mask, Renteria admits that "it is certainly possible, but we expect most airlines will be requiring masks."

As for travelers who don't wear a face covering at the airport, for whatever reason, Renteria confirms that "like many of the stay-at-home orders and mask orders, we are taking an education rather than enforcement approach. We will encourage those not wearing one to put one on. We believe the majority of people will comply, especially since face masks are required on many airlines. We hope that our passengers will be respectful of others and comply with the mask order."

However, he adds, "per the City of Denver’s order, while our goal is compliance through education first, people not wearing a face covering as mandated in the order could be fined up to $999 and could be subject to additional civil penalties."

Will masks be provided to arriving passengers who don't have one? "Not at this time," Renteria acknowledges, "but we are looking into options, which include selling masks at the airport."

(The latter approach would dovetail nicely with a new deal from Frontier Airlines, which boasts about its low fares but charges for any extra it can. For example, the carrier is offering a "More Room" service that lets passenger confirm an empty middle seat next to them — but the cost starts at $39.)

In the meantime, DIA is trying to get the word out about the new mask rule. According to Renteria, "We are sharing information on, our social media channels, news outlets, etc. As requirements at airports and on airlines will greatly vary, we encourage passengers to check with their airline and airports they will be visiting in advance of traveling to fully understand the requirements."

DIA is taking other measures to improve safety at the facility, as well, including these:
• Installed over 100 hand sanitizing stations in high-traffic areas
• Installed disinfecting wipe dispensers at each gate so passengers can wipe down their seat and tray upon boarding
• Regularly cleaning high-touch areas including restrooms, the train to the gates and gate hold rooms
• Disabled air hand dryers in the restrooms to reduce the spread of germs. Passengers may utilize compostable paper towels
• Installed floor tape to indicate a safe distance to stand at customer service booths and other areas of public interaction
• Reconfigured TSA security lines to provide more space between passengers and added signage to encourage passengers to social-distance while in line
• TSA is installing plexiglass shields at screening podiums to allow for distance between officers and passengers, and the same will be installed at other areas where there is public interaction
• Many restaurants are focusing on carry-out options, and others have spread out seating to accommodate for social distance
• Closed food court seating on all three concourses
One more thing: When going through TSA protocols at Denver International Airport, passengers with face coverings are being asked to "adjust their mask so that officers can visually confirm their identity during the checkpoint screening process."

And then put it back on.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts