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Bronson administration members test positive for COVID; Anchorage Assembly cancels meeting

Municipal manager, municipal attorney were both vaccinated, mayor’s office says
Members of the Anchorage Assembly hear testimony from residents on a proposed ordinance that...
Members of the Anchorage Assembly hear testimony from residents on a proposed ordinance that would require masks during a Monday, Oct. 4, 2021 public hearing in the Loussac Library in Anchorage, Alaska.(Jeremy Kashatok/Alaska's News Source)
Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 2:34 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 8, 2021 at 10:27 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Two members of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration have tested positive for COVID-19, and a result, today’s continued Anchorage Assembly meeting has been canceled.

Bronson’s office announced on Friday that one senior members of his administration had tested positive for COVID-19. Corey Allen Young, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, later confirmed that there were actually two members of the administration who tested positive. They are Municipal Manager Amy Demboski and Municipal Attorney Patrick Bergt, he said.

“The senior administration is following Municipality of Anchorage COVID-19 protocols and will not be attending tonight’s scheduled Assembly meeting in person,” the release states. Both Demboski and Bergt were vaccinated, Young said.

In a press release, the assembly announced Friday’s continued meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. had been canceled.

“Assembly leadership was informed by the administration that all Assembly members physically present at the Thursday, October 8 meeting have come into ‘really close contact’ with two COVID-19 positive individuals from the administration,” the release states.

“Even though most Assembly members were wearing masks and are vaccinated, and thus are more protected from contracting COVID-19, Assembly leadership feels it is in the best interest of the safety of the public, staff, administration, and Assembly members to cancel tonight’s continued meeting,” the release continues.

The assembly is also considering cancelling the next regularly scheduled meeting coming up on Tuesday, Oct. 12, according to the release, to allow enough time for assembly and administration members to follow appropriate testing and quarantine guidelines.

Young said that when the mayor’s office learned Demboski and Bergt had tested positive, Bronson informed assembly leadership. The mayor’s office is now performing rapid COVID-19 tests of other people who were in close contact with both COVID-positive members of the administration.

Additionally, anyone in the administration who recently had close contact with Bergt or Demboski will work from home, Young said.

The assembly has been meeting for over a week to hear public testimony on a proposed ordinance that would require mask wearing while indoors in public spaces. The meetings have been marked by unruly crowds, loud outbursts, and even arrests. One meeting in particular saw an openly gay member of the assembly called a homophobic slur, and members of the public wear a Holocaust symbol to protest the proposed public health measure, which drew condemnation from the Jewish community.

Meetings have also seen large amounts of people, the vast majority not wearing masks, showing up to the Anchorage Assembly Chambers to give public testimony. During Thursday night’s special meeting, Director of Economic and Community Development Adam Trombley walked up and, at the direction of Bronson, removed the protective plexiglass barrier at the public testimony podium that was there as part of the assembly’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

“This is just one of many cancellations of large events in Anchorage,” said Assembly member John Weddleton via email on Friday. “We have proven we can talk about masks all day long and into the night while the real culprit, COVID-19, beats down businesses, activities and the young and old.”

On Friday night, Bronson posted on his official mayoral Facebook account that his staff followed protocols when it came to getting tested, reporting their positive results and getting treatment.

Of Bronson’s administration, Bergt is one of the few that has worn a mask to recent assembly meetings.

“I hope none of our Assembly members get COVID,” Bronson wrote in his post. “And, if they do, our focus will be to assist in their care and recovery in any way we can.”

It is not yet clear what the positive cases among Bronson’s staff will mean for the continuation of the ongoing public hearing on the proposed mask ordinance, or when a new public hearing could be scheduled. Significant public involvement is still expected, and the assembly cannot debate or make amendments to the ordinance until the public hearing has closed.

So far, 14 amendments to the measure have been proposed.

This article has been updated with additional information.

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