Peter Segall | Juneau Empire                                 Pedestrians in downtown Juneau on Monday, July 20, 2020. The City and Borough of Juneau approved a mandate for cloth face-covering in public spaces at a special meeting Monday night.

Peter Segall | Juneau Empire Pedestrians in downtown Juneau on Monday, July 20, 2020. The City and Borough of Juneau approved a mandate for cloth face-covering in public spaces at a special meeting Monday night.

Governor urges Alaskans to wear masks

Health and business groups join calls for health precautions

Gov. Mike Dunleavy strongly urged Alaskans to wear masks or cloth face coverings when in public, with or without a mandate.

“It’s a tool in place of social distancing,” Dunleavy said of mask-wearing. “My goal is not to get folks afraid. We’re going to get through this, but this is going to be a major inconvenience. We’re not talking about a mandate, we’re asking folks, especially younger folks, put up your guard.”

The state is seeing a spike in cases, and Dunleavy brought representatives from Alaska’s medical and business community to make strong requests for the public to wear masks when entering local businesses.

Dunleavy asked Alaskans to be vigilant about wearing masks at the news conference Wednesday alongside Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum; Chief of Epidemiology Dr. Joe McLaughlin; Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink; Anna Frick, DHSS research analyst; Kim Spink, DHSS nurse consultant; Sarah Oates, CEO/president of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association; Silvia Villamides, executive director, Alaska Hospitality Retailers; and Kati Capozzi, president/CEO, Alaska Chamber of Commerce, each of whom asked that masks be worn in public places.

[94 new cases confirmed in Alaska]

People who come within six feet of another person should wear masks or take other health care precautions even while outside, McLaughlin said.

“Even if you’re going to be outdoors, it’s a good idea to have a face covering,” McLaughlin said. “Think of that 6-foot rule. It’s a good idea to have a mask or a face covering.”

Juneau Monday enacted a mask mandate, but that only applies indoors.

The recent spike in cases could partly be attributed to social gatherings where health precautions weren’t followed, Dunleavy said, and he asked Alaskans to social distance and wear masks when interacting with people from other households.

While the governor emphasized his requests were not a mandate, he did announce a requirement that masks be worn at all state buildings in areas where social distancing is not possible.

“If the cases are growing we want to do our part,” Dunleavy said. “A lot of us have let our guard down, gotten a little too close, a little too often.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

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