Anchorage Assembly ends its indoor mask mandate

Anchorage Assembly chair Suzanne LaFrance (left) and Vice-chair Chris Constant at the Dec. 7, 2021 Assembly meeting. The Assembly voted unanimously to end an indoor mask mandate it passed in October. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night ending the indoor mask mandate that was put in place in October.

The ordinance required residents wear masks in indoor public and communal spaces, with some exceptions. 

Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who was a co-sponsor of the mandate, also co-authored the resolution ending it. The initial ordinance said the mandate would be in place for 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. 

“So while it may seem counterintuitive, with the new variant on the horizon, to be asking to end the mask mandate early, when we set rules, we should follow those rules,” Zaletel said. “And here, this rule is that if the crisis standards of care were not actively being used by hospitals for 14 consecutive days, that the mask mandate should end. And that’s what this resolution does.”

If not addressed, the mandate would’ve automatically ended on Dec. 14. 

When it passed, Alaska was in the midst of a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the highly-contagious delta variant. The ordinance sparked intense debate, with opponents of the measure arguing it restricted personal freedom and supporters describing it as a way to reduce deaths and prevent the spread of the virus. Mayor Bronson vetoed the ordinance when it initially passed, but the Assembly overrode his veto. 

Zaletel noted that the resolution does not prevent the Assembly from introducing public health measures in the future, should the body feel they are warranted. 

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.