Doctors worry that Alaska is getting complacent with masks

Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 4:24 PM AKDT
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Over 200 physicians and other health care workers in Alaska signed a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy urging him to mandate masks in businesses where "6-foot distancing is unrealistic."

According to some doctors on the list, they worry about the sight they see in grocery stores and other businesses.

I really feel passionate about the use of masks and it's definitely been very visible in the public that most people aren't using a mask,” said Dr. Monica Gaupp, who has a solo practice in Eagle River. “There are definitely certain places of businesses that are mandating and will turn away customers if they aren't wearing masks, but I would say that is a very small minority of businesses operating out in the public. And as a medical provider, that's very concerning.”

Gaupp was one of the physicians who signed the letter. She said she has been disappointed by the reaction from some members of the public when the letter was released.

“I just wish other people out there who are so vehemently against wearing masks think about the community at large instead of just themselves,” she said.

Dr. Laurie Montato, a physician in Anchorage, emphasized the importance of protecting others using a mask. She said masks don’t necessarily help the wearer, but the people around them.

“People say this is my own choice and I live in America and I'm allowed to choose, and that's true,” Dr. Montano said. “But what I think they don't realize is they're choosing then to go out and breath on other people and potentially infect other people if they are one of those people who don't have symptoms but carry the virus.”

“The owner or the manager, whoever runs the operation should make that decision. It shouldn't be mandatory, because it does work for everybody. It just works for the individual establishment," said Darwin Biwer, the owner of Darwin’s Theory, a bar in Downtown Anchorage.

Biwer makes his employees wear masks. He has his customers sign in and sanitize before coming in.

In the state, it is not mandated that people wear a mask, but Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the state's chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink recommend wearing masks.