Travelers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will be required to wear masks while in terminals and other airport facilities starting Monday.
The rule aimed at helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 comes as several major U.S. airlines already require travelers to wear masks on flights. The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) approved the regulation Monday, joining other airports that require passengers to wear masks, including Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Seattle, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami and Phoenix.
"It's time for us to make face masks mandatory at MSP, and it's consistent with our goal that we want to have the safest possible airport," said MAC Chairman Rick King. "It's a simple straightforward way to cut down on the spread of the virus."
The rule says the mask must fully cover a person's nose and mouth, and be secured to the head with ties or straps or similarly wrapped around the lower face.
At MSP, passengers will have to wear masks in ticketing lobbies, parking ramps, shuttle buses and trams, rental car facilities and in any outdoor areas where keeping at least 6 feet from others would be difficult. Exceptions are allowed for children under age 2, minors under 12 not traveling with an adult, and those who have been advised by a medical professional that wearing a mask may pose a health risk.
Travelers will also be able to remove masks, if necessary, when passing through security and checking in at ticket counters or to eat and drink.
The rule also applies to airport workers who have contact with travelers or others who interact with the public. Food preparers also will have to wear face coverings.
Violations can result in a citation, which is a misdemeanor, or removal from the airport.
New signs alerting travelers about the mask requirement will go up this week.
In June, the airport launched its "Travel Confidently" program to help protect travelers and airport employees from the coronavirus. That included several new hand sanitizing stations, signs to encourage physical distancing, and increased cleaning and the use of electrostatic disinfectant fogging overnight in public spaces.
The program did not require masks, but MAC began handing out care kits containing a five-pack of face masks, hand sanitizer and tips for flying safely.
The airport offers free masks at information desks for those who need them. Masks also are sold at shops and in vending machines, MAC spokesman Patrick Hogan said.
Cameron Boyd, the commission's general counsel, said the rule will remain in effect until further notice, but it could be superseded if the state or federal government issues a mask mandate.