Physicians and health care workers urge the governor to mandate wearing face masks in some businesses

Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 1:19 PM AKDT
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More than 200 physicians and health care workers in Alaska have signed a letter to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, urging him to mandate the wearing of masks in businesses where "6-foot distancing is unrealistic."

"We are concerned about the recent and rapid increase in COVID-19 case counts in Alaska. We want a healthy and robust economy in Alaska, and a healthy economy needs healthy consumers and workers. More consumers will feel safe patronizing businesses when they know the risk of infection is reduced. In the absence of mandated masking, many Alaskans will continue to shelter in place rather than risk infection. We also want to avoid another lock-down, which would further harm the economy." the letter reads.

Wednesday morning the state released updated coronavirus numbers: The Department of Health and Social Services reports that there are 20 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alaska. There are a total of 392 recovered cases with 190 cases still active.

Alaska has had 593 cumulative cases for residents and 51 non-resident cases.

According to DHSS, there are nine in the Municipality of Anchorage, nine in the Kenai Penninsula Borough, One in the Mat-Su, and one in Sitka.

There are a total of 49 hospitalizations and 11 deaths across Alaska since the pandemic began.

"The takeaway is this: a sick person wearing a mask will spread fewer viral particles. A healthy person wearing a mask will have some protection from sick people around them. The combination of both people wearing masks provides the greatest amount of protection," the letter, written by Dr.'s Sarah Murphy and Megan Ritter says.

DHSS's website says it is "highly recommended that all Alaskans wear a cloth face covering in public settings."

In Alaska 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. The governor has said he trusts Alaskans to make good choices.

Some businesses, including Costco, aren't allowing unmasked customers in stores.

"As we've seen, if universal masking in businesses is not mandated, it becomes difficult for individual businesses to ask customers to wear them. This is especially concerning in light of the recent rise in case counts this past week. At the beginning of the pandemic in March, cases were clustered in just a few communities. Now we are seeing cases widespread throughout Alaska. Without a mandate for mask wearing, this trend may accelerate," reads the letter.