Proposed Anchorage mask mandate would enlist the public to help enforce it

An entrance to a bar with 'masks required' written in
The entrance to Darwin’s Theory Bar in downtown Anchorage with notices about mask requirements on March 24, 2021 (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly is expected to hear what may be days of testimony beginning Tuesday night on a measure that would enact a mask mandate for indoor public settings and large outdoor gatherings. 

The ordinance would also ask Mayor Dave Bronson to strongly encourage residents to wear masks in public and receive a vaccine. Bronson has called the ordinance “heavy-handed.” Since taking office, he has refused to endorse a mask or vaccine mandate, stating that he believes medical decisions should be decided between a patient and their health care provider.

The ordinance was introduced by Assembly members Meg Zaletel and Pete Petersen last week. Should the ordinance pass, it is unclear whether the mayor’s office will enforce it. 

Ahead of Tuesday’s Assembly meeting, Zaletel added an amendment that would create a way for individuals to file complaints if they see people or businesses out of compliance with the mandate. 

“If we’re going to provide this tool, particularly given the mayor’s position if he’s not going to take advantage of this tool, there’s a private ability for residents to ask for enforcement,” Zaletel said.

Zaletel says she’s confident most Assembly members will vote in favor of the mandate. The mayor has the option to veto the ordinance. Eight of the 11 assembly members would have to vote to overturn the veto.

The proposed mandate would last until Dec. 31 of this year, as long as Anchorage is at a high transmission level for COVID-19. That’s a rate of 50 or more cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period. On Monday, Anchorage had a rate of about 1,081 cases per 100,000, according to state numbers. 

The Anchorage Assembly meeting will start Tuesday night at 5 p.m. at the Loussac Library. 

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Wesley is a reporter for Alaska Public Media, covering primarily city government and Anchorage life. He previously worked at Alaska Public Media as a web editor, producer and education reporter before a two-year stint in Kotzebue, AK as News Director for KOTZ-AM.

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