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Governor requires masks for people in state facilities

Dunleavy said the current case numbers don't warrant a statewide mandate
(Photo: www.nursetogether.com / CC BY 2.0 / License Link)(MGN)
(Photo: www.nursetogether.com / CC BY 2.0 / License Link)(MGN)(KWQC)
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 9:45 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy has sent out a memorandum to state employees informing them that masks are required in state facilities. The requirement also applies to people entering facilities owned by the State of Alaska, Dunleavy said Wednesday.

The requirement comes in the form of a new workplace policy.

“While our actions may not eliminate the virus, these actions will help reduce the spread of the virus to others,” the memorandum stated.

The policy says people are asked to social distance, but in situations where it is impossible to keep 6 feet of distance, employees must wear a mask.

“You’re going to be required to stay 6 feet or more away from others,” Dunleavy said. “If you cannot do that, we’re asking you to wear a face mask. We’re requiring you to wear a face mask.”

Dunleavy said state employees are also being encouraged to telework and communicate through virtual means.

The policy went into effect Wednesday and has no set end date. The requirement will only apply to people entering state facilities.

The requirement is a change for the administration. At the end of June, the Alaska Attorney General, Kevin Clarkson, sent out a memorandum saying all state employees were exempt from the Anchorage mask mandate.

A spokesperson for the governor said Dunleavy had requested the memo be drafted but said he still advised Alaskans to wear masks.

Dunleavy has not instated a statewide mask mandate and said Wednesday that such a mandate would only be considered if virus cases were found everywhere in large numbers in the state.

“When we would see such spread throughout a large number of our communities that might have us rethink a universal, statewide mask mandate,” Dunleavy said. “But that hasn’t happened.”

Dunleavy has deferred to local governments to create their own mask requirements, something he said they have the power to do.

“There would have to be a real change in the nature of the virus and the infection for us to contemplate a statewide mandate on masks when some of our communities have never seen the virus,” Dunleavy said.

Several Alaska communities have instated mask requirements including Anchorage, Seward, Valdez and most recently Juneau.

Health experts in Alaska have highlighted masks as a key way to reduce COVID-19 transmission. At the governor’s press conference Wednesday, three state health officials gave a presentation on when to wear a mask and what kind of mask to wear.

“We wear masks for different reasons. One is to protect ourselves or to put on this mask or face covering to protect others,” Kim Spink, DHSS nurse consultant, said.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink advised people to shrink their social bubbles and wear masks even if they were asymptomatic to reduce the spread of the virus.

“We want to protect our community and protect each other,” Zink said.

State health officials said masks are one tool in fighting the spread of COVID-19. The tools work best in conjunction and officials continued to advise people to handwash, limit contacts and stay socially distant.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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