Voters in Bethel, Alaska have had enough of mask mandates. On Oct. 4, 2022, they passed a ballot proposition banning city officials from enacting a mask mandate in the community.
By a vote of 323 to 297, voters approved a proposition on the Oct. 4 ballot that amended municipal code with one simple sentence: “The City of Bethel shall not enact any mandates requiring masks or face coverings.”
The City of Bethel, population 6,548 in the last U.S. Census, has a mask mandate for all City of Bethel-owned buildings during “high community burden levels, according to its most recent Covid-19 policy, which was updated in April. The community burden level is established by the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation for the City of Bethel.
The most recent community-wide mask mandate was passed by the Bethel City Council last December, and was in effect for 60 days for people:
- Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space;
- Obtaining services from a healthcare facility;
- Waiting for or riding on public transportation or while in a taxi or bus;
- Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when: Interacting in-person with any member of the public;
Working in any space visited by members of the public, regardless of whether anyonefrom the public is present at the time;
- Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
- Working in or walking through public common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators,and parking facilities;
- In any room or enclosed area where other people (except for members of the person’s ownhousehold or residence) are present when unable to physically distance;
- Driving or operating any public transportation or taxi service or ride-sharing vehicle;
- While outdoors in public spaces when maintaining a physical distance of six feet frompersons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible.
The ordinance, which has expired, is at this link.
Bethel is considered a Democrat stronghold. Voting in a ban on masks is an unusual move for a liberal community. Turnout in this election was about 15.5% of registered voters.
Bethel voters on Tuesday also voted down a ballot proposition that would prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages except through a “Restaurant or eating place license, which authorizes the restaurant or eating place to sell beer and wine for consumption only on
the licensed premises; AND Package store license, limited to selling only beer and wine to a person present on licensed premises.”
Preliminary results for the candidates for Bethel City Council:
- Rose “Sugar” Henderson – 453
- Sophie Swope – 448
- Patrick Snow – 414