by Mark Van Streefkerk
Citing what he called dangerous inaction by the federal government, Governor Jay Inslee announced new mandatory mask and safety policies for airline employees and travelers on Thursday.
Joined by representatives of airlines including Alaska and Delta, Inslee said face coverings will now be mandatory in all parts of Washington airports beyond security gates. New signage will discourage crowding and urge social distancing. The governor said he wants airlines to require health screening questionnaires of passengers and implement new sanitation protocols.
Inslee said he had previously called on the national government to issue a uniform federal standard “to protect workers and the traveling public in aviation… Unfortunately the administration has refused to issue such uniform standards.”
“Over 100 [new] items have been implemented, to make sure we maintain that safe environment for travel,” according to Max Tidwell, Vice President of Safety and Security for Alaska Airlines. Those include reducing the amount of touch points, permanently eliminating change fees, a no mask/no travel policy, blocking out the center seats, reducing seats on regional trips, and using EPA-approved sanitizers and fogging electrostatic sanitizers on aircraft.
Tidwell added that air inside the airplanes is being filtered and circulated effectively using “HEPA filters have been proven to be 99.9+ percent effective on filtering viruses similar to COVID-2.”
Tidwell also referenced a Harvard study published last week about the effectiveness of face masks in air travel. “They found them to be very effective especially when they’re layered with other mitigating items [like] the cleaning, the spacing, the air flow,” he said.
Representatives of Delta said their airline is protecting the health of its employees through a special partnership with Quest Diagnostic, Mayo Clinic, and CVS to offer rapid COVID testing in onsite clinics, at home, and in employee lounges.
At both airlines, travelers who refuse to comply with the mask rule are put on a No Fly list..
Moving to a different topic, Inslee reported that June’s projected $9 billion decrease in state revenue over the next three years is half as dire as was projected. . “Our fiscal situation is better than it appeared only a few months ago,” he said. “I’m glad we were patient. I’m glad we did not slash mental health services for Washingtonians, or homeless services or healthcare for Washingtonians.”
Inslee also responded to Trump’s statement that he would refuse to acknowledge ballots counted after election day—a normal procedure in states like Washington with mail-in voting. “I’m calling on everyone, certainly every public official in Washington, to let the White House know that that is unacceptable. We count every vote in Washington state. We know this mail-in ballot works. We can’t have a threat to this most basic tenet of democracy.”
Inslee said a phishing campaign targeting multiple states has not been successful in Washington.
Because investigations are still underway, he declined to disclose the source of the phishing attack.
Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based journalist living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
The featured image is attributed to the photostream of Governor Jay and First Lady Trudi Inslee’s photostream under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.