The far-left majority of the Anchorage Assembly finally agreed to lift its controversial citywide mask mandate on Dec. 7, but warned that it remains open to additional mandates in the future.
Following two weeks of public outcry against a proposed mask mandate in October, the Assembly abruptly approved it after surprising the public with an emergency ordinance that effectively cut off public testimony on the matter. Introduced by Assembly members Meg Zaletel and Pete Peterson, the mandate was whole heartedly supported by the nine-member leftist majority. Assemblywomen Crystal Kennedy and Jamie Allard were the only members who opposed the plan.
Over the past two months, many area residents and businesses refused to abide by the divisive ordinance, and Mayor Dave Bronson stated that his administration would not issue penalties or fines for those who declined to mask.
While the Assembly voted 11-0 on Dec. 7 to no longer force masks on the public, a notice from the body’s legislative liaison, Clare Ross, affirmed that the Assembly still “strongly encourages the use of masks in indoor public spaces.”
The notice acknowledges that the mandate was set to expire automatically next Tuesday. Clare’s notice said the Assembly decided to act earlier because two of the three hospitals have not utilized their “crisis standards of care” for at least two weeks, and community transmission is waning.
“If conditions change and a new public health crisis emerges, we can enact new COVID mitigations in the future,”
Mandate sponsor Zaletel expressed mixed ideas about nixing the ordinance early.
“While it may seem counterintuitive to end the ordinance with the variant looming on the horizon, the mask mandate has done what was intended and set our city back on a better path,” she claimed, before warning that additional mandates may be looming.
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“If conditions change and a new public health crisis emerges, we can enact new COVID mitigations in the future,” she said.
Co-sponsor Peterson echoed this sentiment, claiming that while Anchorage is “not out of the woods just yet,” the mask requirement worked to “slow the spread of COVID and relieve the burden on our health care workers. We encourage everyone to continue to wear masks in indoor public spaces so we can keep up this positive momentum.”
Given that many residents ignored the mandate to begin with, it is likely even fewer will agree to voluntarily cover their faces now that masking is optional.
Back in October, when hundreds of residents packed the Assembly Chambers, mostly opposing the mandate, several Assembly members chastised testifiers and claimed they were abusing the public process by turning out in such great numbers that the Assembly was unable to vote on the measure.