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Anchorage Assembly to vote on whether to end mask requirement slightly early

Anchorage could potentially be seeing their mask mandate lifted by Wednesday.
Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 5:24 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The sponsors of the emergency ordinance passed in October that requires masks to be worn indoors in the Municipality of Anchorage have introduced a resolution for that requirement to be ended slightly ahead of schedule.

The Anchorage Assembly passed an emergency ordinance on Oct. 12 that requires the wearing of face coverings within the municipality in public indoor spaces. The emergency ordinance was set to expire automatically after 60 days if the assembly took no action. That means it would have expired naturally on Dec. 13, which is 60 days from when the assembly overrode Mayor Dave Bronson’s veto of the ordinance.

However, assembly members Meg Zaletel and Pete Petersen, the ordinance’s sponsors, announced Friday that they will introduce a resolution that would end the requirement slightly earlier, on Dec. 8.

A Friday press release from the assembly noted that cases have been decreasing and hospitals have recovered somewhat in terms of capacity.

“If this trend continues, the threshold for the emergency ordinance to expire will likely be met by next week,” the release states.

One of the other stipulations of the ordinance is that it would fall out of effectiveness if two of Anchorage’s three major hospitals were no longer operating under crisis standards of care for at least 14 days. Providence Alaska Medical Center and Alaska Regional Hospital are no longer under crisis care standards.

A spokesperson for the assembly clarified that they are waiting to find out the exact date Providence ceased using crisis care standards.

The resolution to end the mask requirement will be introduced at this coming Tuesday’s regular assembly meeting.

“If the expiration threshold is met and the resolution passes, masks will not be required for indoor public spaces starting December 8,” the release states.

However, some local business say they are still going to be requiring individuals to wear mask inside their stores.

“I think as long as, you know, COVID is raging, it’s really a simple precaution that we all should embrace,” Nina Bonito Romine, the co-owner of The Kobuck, said. “I understand that some people don’t feel that way, but at The Kobuck we do.”

Bonito Romine says, especially right now when their store is seeing additional foot traffic due to the holidays, they want to be safe.

“This is our busiest season of the year and we’ve actually been looking at maybe restricting how many people can be in here at one time,” Bonito Romine said.

Meanwhile, others say that the assembly should issue a recommendation verses having masks be mandated.

“As far as a mandate goes, you know, there’s no right answer,” said Matt Tomter, owner of Matanuska Brewing Company. “I think for me, I think there’s people that think it should be in place. But I don’t think it really works. I think half the population is not doing it anyway. So, it seems to me to be a little ridiculous.”

In Friday’s press release, Petersen thanked the community for its work to help protect Anchorage during the pandemic.

“We couldn’t have done this without everyone — medical professionals, business owners, employees and individuals — coming together and each making a sacrifice for the greater good of our community,” he said in the press release.

“We had alarming rates of transmission, a mask requirement and other health recommendations were put into place, and the rates came down,” Zaletel said in the release. “Masks are a simple, cheap and highly effective way to combat this virus, so even though they are no longer mandatory, they are still strongly recommended for indoor public areas. With the new omicron variant lurking on the horizon, we still need to exercise caution and good health practices.”

The press release noted that the COVID-19 mitigation measures enacted by the assembly for inside their meeting chambers — including face coverings and capacity limits — are still in effect.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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