Anchorage Assembly extends emergency declaration a sixth time

The Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage.
The Anchorage Assembly chambers at the Z. J. Loussac Public Library in Anchorage. (Staff photo)

The Anchorage Assembly on Monday voted to extend the city’s emergency declaration for the sixth time, until January 15, 2021. The first declaration went into effect in March, with periodic votes to extend. In recent months, COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed and hospital staffing has been increasingly strained.

More than two dozen people testified during a public hearing, largely opposed to the extension. Assembly Chairman Felix Rivera noted that they have also received many calls, texts and emails in favor of the declaration. 

Many who testified argued that the public should be allowed to follow public health guidelines out of a sense of personal responsibility, instead of because of a government mandate. Assemblyman John Weddleton pointed to the last time the municipality relaxed measures in late August, after which Anchorage saw a spike in cases.

“We tried that in the summer. And then the cases rose pretty steadily, because people got very casual about things,” he said. “And in between now and herd immunity or whatever, if we do laissez-faire, there’s an awful lot of damage.”

An emergency declaration allows Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson to enact public health measures like the mask mandate and gathering limitations without having to wait for approval from the Assembly. The Assembly does have the power to veto the actions.