The Anchorage Assembly voted late Tuesday to extend the city’s emergency declaration a seventh time, until April 16. Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson’s administration said the designation helps the city respond quickly to the pandemic. Without the extension, several emergency orders, including the mask mandate and business capacity limits would have expired this week.
The emergency declaration extension has periodically come before the Assembly since it was first enacted in March 2020. It has become increasingly controversial as businesses struggle under restrictions but COVID-19 transmission shows little sign of letting up.
Eagle River-Chugiak Assembly member Crystal Kennedy, who voted against the extension, said she believes the emergency orders have been too heavy-handed.
“I can’t support the good parts, because the bad parts have been so overbearing and so devastating,” she said.
A state epidemiology report yesterday found the city’s emergency orders have helped significantly to slow the spread of coronavirus in Anchorage.
RELATED: New report says emergency orders helped slow the spread of coronavirus in Anchorage
Some assembly members have talked about transitioning some emergency orders into ordinances to avoid the continuous emergency declaration extensions, but that has not yet happened.
The Assembly turned down an amendment to extend the declaration through March, instead of April. Some argued it’s necessary to keep the orders in place as youth begin returning to classrooms next week. Assembly member Forrest Dunbar also cautioned against underestimating the severity of the pandemic, even as vaccines are beginning to roll out.
“If you look at the science and you look at the infection numbers, you look at the fact that 4,000 people in the Lower 48 died yesterday of COVID-19, I don’t think there is a realistic expectation that the emergency will end before April,” he said.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the Assembly voted to pass a resolution condemning the violence at the U.S. Capitol last week when a mob of pro-Trump extremists attempted to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win. The hour-long debate grew contentious at times and sparked outbursts from the audience.
Kennedy and fellow Eagle River-Chugiak representative Jamie Allard opposed references to Trump supporters in the resolution. Allard called the resolution “political posturing.” Other members argued that the unprecedented insurrection warranted clear condemnation.
“The point of this is to condemn what happened in Washington D.C., and in many ways condemn the people that were involved in it,” said Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia.
The resolution ultimately passed nine to one. It included a condemnation of President Trump’s supporters who were there, but acknowledged Alaskan electors who were in Washington D.C. did not participate in the riot. Allard was the lone “no” vote.