Anchor assembly terminates the mask’s term, effective immediately
The Anchorage Assembly on Friday revoked the city’s mask mandate with immediate effect, just hours after city officials initially announced the mandate would become notice next week.
The assembly decision – backed by acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson – dismantles a mask requirement that has been in place since last June and marks the latest major change in the city’s pandemic response following the lifting of the Most restrictions on businesses and gatherings earlier this month.
During a special meeting on Friday afternoon, Assembly member Chris Constant proposed that the Assembly revoke the emergency order, and the movement found broad support in an 8-1 vote.
“It’s time to end the mask’s mandate. It’s time to end it now, ”said member Kameron Perez-Verdia.
Earlier in the day on Friday, Quinn-Davidson’s office announced that the emergency order requiring the wearing of a mask in public spaces would instead become a recommendation from May 21, in response to federal guidelines according to which fully immunized Americans can safely stop wearing headgear in most cases. settings, both indoors and outdoors.
City officials had also cited the rise in vaccinations among residents and the decrease in the number of infections as part of the reason the mask order was becoming advisory.
The assembly vote marks a sudden shift from the interim mayor’s plan, speeding up the schedule by a week.
City officials said the change came into effect on May 21 was intended to protect the school district’s largely unvaccinated student population until the end of the school year. It would also give businesses and organizations time to plan, they said.
“While this changes the timeline, at the end of the day we are working towards the same end: lifting the city-wide masking requirement while recommending that unvaccinated people continue to wear masks,” Quinn said. -Davidson in a statement emailed after the Assembly Vote.
As part of the city plan, unvaccinated people will still be “strongly encouraged” to continue to mask themselves, but they will not be required to do so. City officials said “a mask warrant applying only to unvaccinated people would have presented enforcement problems and increased the burden on businesses.”
However, companies may continue to require masks. Additionally, a federal mask mandate that applies to public transportation is still in effect, and the CDC still advises people to wear masks when in healthcare and at assembly places.
“We recognize that the lifting of the mask mandate, today or next week, transfers more responsibility to individuals,” Janet Johnston, epidemiologist in the city’s health department, said in a statement after the move from the city. ‘Assembly. “With less masking, the risk of COVID-19 for unvaccinated people will increase.
“We strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated and to continue to mask for up to two weeks after the end of the vaccination series. And once you are vaccinated, take advantage of having no mask left. “
City lawyer Kate Vogel addressed the assembly ahead of its vote and said the removal of the city-wide mandate means that individual company policies will be the determining factor in many contexts.
“We have businesses all over town, frankly, across the country, trying to figure out what to do and what the rules are for their employees,” Vogel said. “Yesterday’s announcement was a bit unexpected and therefore many of our companies, even national ones, do not yet know what their internal policy or their policy towards customers will be.”
Member Meg Zaletel was the only member to vote against the change, and Member Forrest Dunbar was not present for the vote.
Some members of the Assembly also raised concerns about the immediate revocation of the mandate.
Member Pete Petersen noted that there had been a recent surge in cases in Fairbanks, focusing on the city’s hospital system. Maintaining the mandate for another week would give people more time to get vaccinated, he said.
“There are lives at stake here,” he said.
Zaletel proposed an amendment to change the effective date to align with the mayor’s plan, but members voted his amendment down.
Member John Weddleton said he believes businesses have had plenty of time to plan and businesses don’t have to change – they may still need masks on their premises.
“I don’t think there is anything disruptive about taking off a mask. The masks are what is disruptive, ”he said. “And then in terms of people, companies having time to plan, there was a lot of time to plan. We all know this won’t last forever. “
The city had been on high alert for almost a year – meaning it recorded more than 10 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents on average over a two-week period – but recently fell to a intermediate alert, officials wrote.
In Anchorage, 137,278 people – or about 60% of residents aged 16 and over – received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while about 53% of those 16 and over were considered fully vaccinated on Thursday.
“If getting your COVID-19 vaccine has been on your to-do list for a while,” Quinn-Davidson said, “now is the time to cross it.”