Anchorage’s unelected acting mayor, Austin Quinn-Davidson has decided to wield her newly inherited emergency powers to impose city-wide mask mandates and tighter restrictions on gatherings. She announced her new mandates during a Nov. 6 press conference. They take effect Nov. 9 and will include stricter enforcement.
Quinn-Davidson was selected by her fellow Assembly members to serve as acting mayor for the next eight months. Just two weeks into her new post, she will now require all residents over the age of two years to wear masks when inside public settings or communal spaces. They must also mask up at outside gatherings or anytime they come within six feet of another person.
She warned those who might resist her orders that noncompliance could lead back to hunker-down mode.
Unlike her predecessor Ethan Berkowitz, who resigned amid a public sex scandal last month, the acting mayor will no longer allow disabled residents to go without a face covering. If someone cannot wear a mask due to health reasons, they must strap on a face shield. This goes for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The acting mayor said her new mandates are due to the fact that Anchorage has increased COVID case counts. As of Nov. 6, the city of 290,000 residents had 1,928 active COVID cases with 58 hospitalized (which comprises about 10% of all hospital patents).
Quinn-Davidson warned those who might resist her orders that noncompliance could lead Anchorage back to hunker-down mode, a condition that destroyed many local businesses this past summer.
If necessary, city officials are prepared to physically remove people from areas where they are not wearing masks.
She also has plans to send out more code enforcers to ensure compliance with the mandates.
“We will be beefing up enforcement,” Quinn-Davidson warned. “We want to be able to do some spot checks and be proactive and not just respond to complaints.”
If necessary, city officials are prepared to physically remove people from areas where they are not wearing masks. For businesses that ignore her mandates, Quinn-Davidson’s administration is prepared to fine them $600 a day. Individuals could be subject to $50 fines.
Exceptions to her size restrictions are afforded to musicians and entertainers who keep at least 25 feet from their audience. Additionally, people eating or drinking don’t have to mask up while dining, nor do those who are confined to their own enclosed work areas.
Greater onus is now on business owners to ban unmasked residents from entering their buildings and “require or compel removal of such individuals.”
Quinn-Davidson’s order states that the city “reserves the right to use all available enforcement options to assure compliance.”
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When it comes to gatherings, her updated mandates require the following.
- Indoor gatherings involving food or drink are limited to 10 people.
- Indoor gatherings without food or drink are limited to 15 people.
- Outdoor gatherings involving food and drink are limited to 20 people.
- Outdoor gatherings without food or drink are limited to 30 people.
- No size limits on farmers markets or outdoor food-truck events so long as people are six feet apart.
- No size limits on drive-in events so long as people stay in their vehicles without passing items between cars.
- Day cares and day camps can have up to 20 people.
- Schools (pre-K through 12th grade) are limited to 50% capacity.
- Religious and political gatherings (where masks are continuously worn) are limited to 50% capacity
- The mandate doesn’t apply to athletes on sports teams when practicing or playing. Spectators, however, are limited to the gathering restrictions.
- Holiday bazaars fundraisers or other special shopping events are limited to 25% capacity with a maximum of 100 people. No food may be consumed at these events and all booths must be 20 feet apart.
- Bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters and other entertainment facilities are allowed 50% capacity.
- Retail and other public-facing business do not have size limitations so long as people can stay six feet apart.
In addition to imposing restrictions on Anchorage, the acting mayor said she is urging Gov. Mike Dunleavy to issue a statewide order requiring all Alaskans mask up. Dunleavy has resisted such moves, preferring to offer guidance and trust Alaskans. He has openly criticized the severe mandates former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz enforced on Anchorage residents over the past year.