ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An emergency order mandating the use of masks in response to the coronavirus pandemic could be turned into city code by the Anchorage Assembly.
Assembly members were expected to introduce ordinances Tuesday that could change mayoral emergency orders into local law, including a requirement for masks to be worn within indoor public places, Anchorage Daily News reported.
A mask ordinance would move the matter out of the control of the mayor’s office, regardless of whether the measure has the mayor’s support. A new mayor is expected to be chosen during the April 6 election and take office July 1.
Assembly members will wait until a future meeting to vote on ordinances proposed Tuesday.
While there has been opposition, surveys of Anchorage residents by the University of Alaska Anchorage throughout 2020 found widespread acceptance of mask use to slow the spread of the virus.
More than 80% of respondents in November reported wearing masks “most or all of the time when not at home.” The figure increased to 90% in December.
A statewide survey in November found a majority of Alaska residents support wearing masks.
Acting Assembly Vice Chair John Weddleton said the mask ordinance proposal and three others regarding mayoral emergency orders are steps toward addressing authority issues that have arisen during the pandemic.
Weddleton said he has heard from many residents who are concerned about the amount of power in the mayor’s office.
The assembly earlier this month extended to April a declaration giving Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson the authority to enact emergency orders in response to the pandemic.
It is “unusual to have a mayor say, ‘Let it be so,’ and there’s a law,” said Weddleton, a sponsor of the mask ordinance proposal.
Assembly member Jamie Allard said she opposes putting the mask order into city code.
“People have shown they’re willing to wear a mask, and some don’t. And I think that’s an individual decision,” Allard said. “I do not agree with people being legally made to cover their faces.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.