Anchorage Assembly reopening meetings to public attendance

September 1, 2020 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Anchorage Assembly said it will reopen meetings for in-person participation by members of the public after the city temporarily suspended open meetings because of the coronavirus.

Up to 60 members of the public will be allowed to enter assembly chambers in the Z. J. Loussac Library to watch the meetings and give in-person testimony, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

The assembly chamber can normally accommodate about 250 people.

Those attending must physically distance from other members of the public while also wearing masks, assembly Chair Felix Rivera said.

Attendees must also submit to a forehead temperature check and fill out a contact-tracing log to be used in the event of a virus outbreak.

The change was the result of the expiration Sunday of a city emergency order limiting indoor gatherings.

The closure of the chambers was a rallying cry for Anchorage residents protesting local government orders during the pandemic regarding mask mandates, business closures and the assembly’s proposal to use federal coronavirus recovery funds to purchase buildings for homeless and treatment services.

Groups of more than 100 people have gathered outside the library prior to and during assembly meetings to voice opposition to the temporary ban on in-person participation.

Residents were able to give testimony on assembly agenda items via email or telephone, but protesters argued the assembly was trying to shut out the public.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.