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Revised emergency mask ordinance in Anchorage includes more exemptions, scaled back enforcement

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. 15, 2021 at 4:23 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A new mask requirement is temporarily in effect for the Municipality of Anchorage after nine Anchorage Assembly members ultimately votes to override Mayor Dave Bronson’s veto of the emergency ordinance at yesterday’s special meeting.

The emergency ordinance, which incorporated several changes from the original measure being considered after public feedback, doesn’t specifically mention any punishments or fines for those who do not comply. It does state that the municipality “reserves the right to use all available enforcement options to assure compliance.”

Assembly member Felix Rivera said the point of passing this ordinance wasn’t necessarily to worry about enforcement, but to get more people to mask up. He said the assembly has already received reports that more people are masking up now, and says under the emergency ordinance, the assembly is really just relying on the good will of Anchorage residents to do their part.

“Frankly, the people who aren’t going to mask aren’t going to mask,” Rivera said. “But we passed this ordinance because we know that there is a group of residents in the municipality who are going to mask now that there is a mask mandate in place, and we have seen it happen. We have seen more people masking — the people who weren’t gonna mask before probably aren’t gonna mask now, and frankly that’s not why this emergency ordinance was put forward.”

Anchorage Assembly members passed an emergency mask ordinance that got a negative response from...
Anchorage Assembly members passed an emergency mask ordinance that got a negative response from some attending the meeting.

The emergency order is only temporary and is set to last for a maximum of 60 days. It could end sooner if at least two of the three hospitals in Anchorage are no longer operating under crisis standards of care for 14 days in a row or if Anchorage is no longer under a high community transmission rate of COVID-19 for 14 consecutive days.

The emergency ordinance states that masks are required in public indoor spaces and in communal areas if people gather with individuals outside of their household. It also requires businesses and employers to deny entrance to anyone not wearing a mask.

However, there are exceptions for some people. The ordinance doesn’t apply to anyone under the age of 5, churches and other religious congregations, and doesn’t apply to anyone with a physical or mental disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.

Bronson, who vetoed the ordinance, has not stated whether he will enforce masking in the municipality.

“What I want to do is encourage everyone to actually read the language in the measure and look at section four,” Bronson said following Thursday’s special meeting. “There are exemptions — the exemptions are written pretty broadly ... Read that clearly and understand what that means, and then make your own personal decision on whether you can tolerate a mask or not.”

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