The City and Borough of Wrangell, with a population of about 2,300 residents, is considering reinstituting a mask mandate and imposing its own travel restrictions. This is despite the fact that there are only two reported active COVID cases in the area.
The Borough Assembly is set to consider three emergency ordinances today, March 2, at 6 p.m. The first would require masks in most indoor settings and outdoor communal spaces. It would also impose a $25 fine on violators. The other two ordinances deal with travel restrictions and quarantines for incoming visitors.
The Southeast community has been free of mask mandates since early December. Borough Manager Lisa Von Bargen, who submitted the new proposed ordinances, wants that to change. In an attempt to justify reimposing a mask mandate, one ordinance claims it is necessary because the neighboring community of Petersburg has experienced an outbreak of COVID cases.
As of March 2, Petersburg has 41 active COVID cases, but just one hospitalization.
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The proposed mask ordinance also notes that Wrangell had four COVID cases reported over the past 12 days. Since two of the four cases were not immediately contacted by state contact tracers, the ordinance claims that the community is at an “increased risk of exposure as close contacts have not been able to isolate and get tested.”
There is no actual outbreak in Wrangell, and there have been no mask mandates in place since mid-December. Nevertheless, the Wrangell Emergency Operations Center “believes the status quo has changed to the extent necessary to revisit the requirement of face coverings in public in order to keep the potential risk of an outbreak as low as possible,” the proposed ordinance states.
The Emergency Operation Center is also requesting that a fine of $25 be imposed on any who fail to mask in certain areas. There would be no option for residents to wear face shields in leu of masks.
The ordinance would be in place until April 13.
In addition to the mandatory masks, Borough Manager Bon Bargen also submitted two other ordinances that would impose travel restrictions on incoming visitors and residents of Wrangell. The State of Alaska has rescinded its travel mandates, but the borough proposal would implement much of the same requirements the state previously had in place.
The Wrangell ordinances would require people to submit self-isolation plans and would ban anyone from entering who tested positive for COVID until they were cleared by a medical provider. Non-Alaskans would have to be tested either prior to travel or at the Wrangell Airport. Alaska residents could forgo testing and choose to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. These ordinances would also expire on April 13.