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Alaska Legislature requires masks in Capitol during session

December 31, 2020 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Legislature has required all lawmakers and staff to wear masks during the upcoming session in a bid to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

The Legislative Council passed the mandate 11-1 this week in a virtual meeting that determined the rules and guidelines for the session beginning in mid-January. Only Republican Rep. DeLena Johnson voted against it, the Juneau Empire reported.

The media also will be banned from the chambers or galleries, everyone will be required to remain seated when speaking and Plexiglas dividers must be installed.

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“We did decide to ask the media not to be on the floor of the House or Senate,” Republican state Sen. Gary Stevens said. “I’m sorry we had to do that. It was the only way we could find the way to do that.”

Lawmakers and staffers who refuse to have their temperature taken or answer health screening questions will not be allowed to enter the state Capitol, and those who refuse to wear a mask may work in their office but will barred from the chambers.

“We’re just trying to make it as safe as possible. I have been surprised to learn how many of our employees as well as legislators have underlying health issues,” Stevens said. “It’s a serious issue, wearing a mask. There are people who disagree with that, but this is now our policy.”