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Mask mandate lifted at Helena airport

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Airport Terminal Upgrade

The Helena Regional Airport recently finished its $12 million terminal upgrade project. The new terminal boasts seating for 500 passengers, a cafe and new jet bridges.

The Helena Regional Airport received word Monday night from the Transportation Security Administration that the mask mandate had been lifted and took action accordingly, its director said.

"I just now received word that TSA has removed the security directive requiring masks in the airport, so we are taking down the signs and removing that mandate in the airport," Jeff Wadekamper said about 8:20 p.m. Monday.

Airport director Jeff Wadekamper talks about the airport's new jet bridge

Helena Regional Airport Director Jeff Wadekamper is pictured in 2019. 

Earlier in the day, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle vacated the mask requirement nationwide and directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse the policy put in place in February 2021, for airplanes, trains and other public transportation. A few hours later the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said orders requiring masks on public transportation would no longer be enforced, although both agencies recommended their continued use.

The ruling from the Florida-based judge was handed down in a lawsuit filed last year by the Health Freedom Defense Fund, a nonprofit group that says it focuses on “bodily autonomy” as a human right.

The CDC said last week that it would extend the mask mandate by two weeks, to May 3, as it reviews data on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by the BA.2 subvariant. 

Wadekamper said he believes mask mandates have been enforced at the airport for nearly two years.

“We don’t make the rules; we just have to enforce them,” he said. “Whether we agree or not, when the rules are pushed down to us we have to comply with them.”

This story contains information from the Associated Press.

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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