The rate of COVID-19 infections is decreasing in Anchorage, and the Assembly says it will decide whether to end the city’s mask mandate at its meeting on Tuesday.
The Assembly initially enacted the mandate in mid-October during a surge of coronavirus cases driven by the highly-contagious delta variant. Under the mandate, people must wear masks in indoor public places and in communal spaces. The decision was contentious, with Mayor Dave Bronson vetoing the measure, resulting in a vote from the Assembly to override the mayor.
At the time, Alaska had the country’s highest rate of COVID-19 infection, and several Anchorage hospitals were operating under crisis standards of care. The ordinance was written to last as long as 60 days or until two of the city’s three hospitals were not operating at crisis levels or when case rates were no longer high.
Assembly members who co-sponsored the masking ordinance now say the state has seen a decline in cases, and hospitals are no longer overwhelmed.
“We had alarming rates of transmission, a mask requirement and other health recommendations were put into place, and the rates came down,” Assembly member Meg Zaletel, co-sponsor of the ordinance, said in a statement. “Masks are a simple, cheap and highly effective way to combat this virus, so even though they are no longer mandatory, they are still strongly recommended for indoor public areas. With the new omicron variant lurking on the horizon, we still need to exercise caution and good health practices.”
The Assembly is set to take up a resolution Tuesday evening that would end the mask mandate, effective the following day, Wednesday, Dec. 8.
“We couldn’t have done this without everyone—medical professionals, business owners, employees and individuals—coming together and each making a sacrifice for the greater good of our community” said a statement from Assembly member Pete Petersen, the other co-sponsor.
Assembly leaders say they are now monitoring the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, and may enact new COVID-19 mitigations in the future should cases climb.