FRIDAY’S UNPUBLICIZED MEETING WENT SIDEWAYS FOR ASSEMBLY
Pressure from some quarters is bearing down on Gov. Mike Dunleavy to issue a statewide mandate requiring all Alaskans wear masks when in public places.
Since that seems unlikely, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is considering making it a local “cover your face” order for Alaska’s largest city.
During his Friday update, Berkowitz said that Anchorage is in “Condition Yellow,” and that if more cases of COVID-19 arise, he will consider imposing a mask mandate. It was an “or else” warning to the public. Listen up:
“We have not mandated masking to this point,” Berkowitz said. “I would not like to get to the point where we have to mandate masking, but mandating masking is something that is on the table.”
Although the vast majority of Alaskans do not want a statewide mask mandate, according to a recent Must Read Alaska poll, some members of the Anchorage Assembly are pressing forward. for the local mandate at least.
A local mask mandate in Anchorage has already failed to pass the Assembly twice on a vote of 5-6.
Meg Zalatel and Forrest Dunbar pushed the issue during a special Assembly committee meeting last week, and they brought a handful of doctors to support mandatory face coverings for all Alaskans.
Also speaking at the meeting were Reps. Geran Tarr and Zack Fields, who stated that they support a mask mandate but don’t think they could get the governor to change his mind.
Rep. Tarr asked the doctors invited to the meeting if they thought it would be helpful for Tarr and Fields to hold a press conference to demand the governor mandate masks, and the doctors answered that they believe a press conference by the two would be helpful.
“Very helpful,” said Dr. Helen Adams, one of the featured speakers. The doctors said that the science is now very clear that masks reduce the spread of COVID-19, and a lot of misinformation is being spread by opponents of mask mandates.
“If you look at the conversations that are happening in places like social media and even on the news, there’s misrepresentation of what we’re looking for,” said Dr. Monique Love Child, an Anchorage pediatrician.
During the phone-in meeting that was not well-publicized, the public learned of the proceedings and called in with their objections, sometimes interrupting the officials and doctors to get their points across. It was apparent that meeting chairman Felix Rivera was not expecting the public to call in and he had to admonish the callers to stop talking over the experts.
Assembly member Forrest Dunbar was not pleased with the public’s participation:
“Wearing a face covering to slow the spread of a pandemic should be the least political policy choice a community makes in a year. Instead our work session attracted people claiming scientists are inflating fatality numbers and the elderly/vulnerable should fend for themselves,” Dunbar wrote. “Do you want businesses to stay open? Great! Then everyone wear a face covering to slow the spread. Otherwise we are going to be back in lock down.”
On Wednesday, June 24, Alaska House Democrats will hold another meeting on the topic in the House Health and Social Services Committee. The meeting convenes at 9:30 am and is accessible to the public at this link.