Attorney General Kevin Clarkson on Friday sent a notice to the State of Alaska workforce that once they are inside State office buildings or facilities in Anchorage, the Anchorage mayor’s mask mandate does not apply, and they may wear them if they are comfortable, or not wear them.
“The Governor supports State of Alaska employees that want to voluntarily wear facemasks or face coverings to assist in the mitigation of COVID-19,” Clarkson wrote in a memo, referring to the Wuhan coronavirus that has become a global pandemic and which has created a patchwork of myriad changing government policies.
As expected on Friday, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz enacted a mandate, something he made clear is an “order” that all people inside the municipality of Anchorage wear masks when in public places. He said it is not a mandate.
That is a distinction that is difficult for the public to understand, especially because his press release specifically says “Mayor Ethan Berkowitz issued Emergency Order EO-13, mandating the use of cloth face coverings or masks in the Municipality of Anchorage. EO-13 takes effect at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, June 29, 2020, and remains in effect until July 31, 2020.”
The mandate/order is the Berkowitz response to people not wearing masks voluntarily, and the increase in COVID-19 cases in recent days. He has scolded the public for flouting the good practices that have been guidelines to prevent the spread of the extremely contagious virus.
“To support the increase in economic activity following the lifting of the Hunker Down order, and to protect public health, everyone in Anchorage must wear a face covering when in a public space such as a grocery store, pharmacy, restaurant or bar, retail store, and other common indoor areas,” the mayor said.
“COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in the Lower 48 and case counts have risen in Anchorage,” said Mayor Berkowitz. “Unfortunately, not enough people are practicing the distancing needed to keep the curve flat, so we have a choice between doing nothing, hunkering down, or masking up. Masking up makes a difference. When enough of us do it, we can flatten the curve, keep our businesses open, and our community safe.”
Exceptions to his order include:
• children under two years old
• individuals with health conditions who are unable to tolerate wearing a face covering or mask due to a physical or mental disability
• individuals performing an activity that cannot be accomplished, or accomplished safely while wearing a mask
Berkowitz’ order says employers are responsible to provide masks or cloth face coverings to employees who have direct contact with others. Additional details are outlined in the Emergency Order, the mayor said, but the order was not posted on the city’s website, nor is not something most people will be able to easily find. The entire emergency order is at this link:
“Face coverings do not replace physical distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people), frequent hand washing with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, and routine cleaning and disinfecting of regularly touched surfaces,” Berkowitz said.