Juneau’s mask mandate has been extended for as much as another six months following a unanimous decision Monday night by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly. The mandate requires that masks be worn in indoor public settings and while using CBJ facilities, according to City Manager Rorie Watt.
Even though a vaccine was arriving in Juneau soon “we still need to be vigilant and protect each other,” Watt said at the meeting.
The new ordinance combines the city’s two previous regulations into one. The city initially issued two mask mandates; the first for Capital Transit and the other CBJ facilities and a second for the general public. The mandate will remain in effect until June of 2021 unless terminated by the Assembly, Watt said.
Only one citizen gave testimony against the mandate. Aaron Spratt, who identified himself as a resident of the Mendenhall Valley. Spratt argued that masks are ineffective and the cost associated with mandatory masking outweighed the benefits.
“Widespread mask use does not correlate with reduced cases,” Spratt said, referring Assembly members to a website that identifies its contributors by their Twitter usernames. “Science has shown that asymptomatic spread was a negligible risk vector.”
Spratt’s comments were directly in contrast to statements made by Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink and other health professionals who have repeatedly said that wearing masks is an effective way of limiting the spread of COVID-19. Studies demonstrating the effectiveness of masking have been conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
“Masks do save lives, so please wear a mask,” Zink said at a Dec. 11, news conference.
Many businesses are already requiring their customers to wear a mask, regardless of city mandates and some business owners said Tuesday masking makes their customers feel safer.
“We have a lot of elderly customers,” said Megan Bishop, who runs Ben Franklin Store on Front Street with her father, Mike Wiley. “I think it’s what we need to do as a community,” she said of mask-wearing.
Very few customers had complained, and Wiley said they would likely ask customers to wear masks even without the mandate.
Morgan Johnson, owner of the Plant Studio on Seward Street, said masking seemed to make her customers feel more comfortable and believes asking customers to wear a mask was actually good for her business.
There are exemptions for people with disabilities and young children, according to the new mandate, which requires a mask, cloth face covering or face shield while in indoor public spaces or outdoors while within six feet of others.
The city has set up a webpage with frequently asked questions about the mask mandate: juneau.org/covid-19-making-faqs.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.