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Juneau extends mask mandate until at least June 2021

December 17, 2020 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A mask mandate in Juneau has been extended for at least six more months.

The ordinance passed by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly on Monday upholds the requirement for masks to be worn in all indoor public settings and outdoors when within six feet (1.8 meters) of other people.

Alaska is one of 12 states as of Wednesday without a statewide mask mandate.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said that while he acknowledges the efficacy of masks, which has been corroborated by studies from the CDC and World Health Organization, the issue is best delegated to local governments.

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But many local officials in the state have said they do not have the power to implement mask mandates or that they would let businesses decide for themselves.

In Juneau, where a mask mandate was imposed when the state was experiencing roughly 10% of the cases it has reported in December, some business owners said they have embraced the policy change.

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.

Morgan Johnson, owner of the Plant Studio, said wearing masks seems to make her customers feel more comfortable. She believes asking customers to wear a mask is good for business.

Mike Wiley, who runs the Ben Franklin Store, said very few customers have complained about the policy.

“We have a lot of elderly customers,” said Megan Bishop, the daughter and co-owner of the Ben Franklin Store with Wiley. “I think (wearing masks is) what we need to do as a community.”

For most people, the 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.