Anchorage institutes mask mandate under emergency ordinance
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The governing body of Alaska’s largest city has passed an emergency ordinance instituting a mask ordinance.
The Anchorage Assembly passed the motion ordinance late Tuesday, and it replaces an earlier proposal that dragged on for weeks amid heated public testimony, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
During earlier hearings, some residents wore homemade yellow Stars of David, like those Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis, to draw a comparison to what Jews faced in Germany. Several people were arrested or removed from the hearings, including a man who launched a homophobic slur at an Assembly member.
The original proposal was not scheduled at Tuesday’s regular meeting; it was to have been heard at a special meeting Wednesday. But it was brought up as an emergency ordinance instead on Tuesday and passed 9-1. At least nine votes are needed to pass an emergency ordinance, and a public hearing is not required.
Assembly member Jamie Allard, who opposed the original mask mandate, participated in the meeting by phone. She initially voted against the emergency ordinance in a 9-2 vote, but the vote had to be taken again because of a procedural error. She did not participate in the second vote.
Allard said the new ordinance would draw “strong backlash” and that government officials “should never push our medical advice on anybody.”
“I will not comply,” she said.
The ordinance requires all people to wear masks or face coverings in indoor public areas. It is in effect for 60 days or until at least two Anchorage hospitals stop operating under crisis of care standards for consecutive days or when the city is no longer experiencing substantial or high community transmission for 14 straight days.
Exemptions to the mask mandate include children under the age of 5, people who can’t wear masks because of mental or physical disabilities, churches and those participating in athletic activities. Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, who opposed mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions, and his executive team are exempt.
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“This is not about getting the mayor to wear a mask. This is about our community’s health,” said Meg Zaletel, one of the Assembly members who brought the ordinance to the body.
“Please know, there are no fines, no fees and no punishments for violating this ordinance. It’s just one more effort by our Assembly to force the citizens of Anchorage to do their will without hearing from everyone who wanted to testify or participate in the public process. The Anchorage Assembly has continued to break the public’s trust,” Bronson said in a statement Wednesday announcing he had vetoed the measure.
The Assembly has scheduled a Thursday meeting to consider overriding the veto, which they can do with eight votes.
Neither Bronson nor most of his administration attended Tuesday’s meeting, saying they were following COVID-19 protocols after both the municipal manager and municipal attorney tested positive for the virus last week.