Emergency mask mandate begins June 29 in Anchorage

Anchorage residents will be required to wear masks in indoor spaces starting on June 29 at 8 a.m. The emergency order was announced on June 26, amid rising COVID-19 cases in Alaska and throughout the U.S.

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

Wearing a mask will be required in all public indoor spaces such as grocery stores, restaurants, bars, salons and transportation. They are also required for communal public places where people meet but don’t live together, such as elevators or office areas. Masks are not required for outdoor spaces.

According to the emergency mandate, businesses should provide masks for employees who work with the public for their protection and the protection of people they work with. The Centers for Disease Controls, or CDC, says that mask wearing will help prevent the virus from spreading.

“Cloth face coverings are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face covering coughs, sneezes, talks or raises their voice. This is called source control,” according to the CDC website.

The World Health Organization also recommends wearing a cloth face mask that has three layers. Face masks are sold at many retailers online and can be made at home as well. They are sold at big retailers such as The Gap, Target and Old Navy. They are also plentiful at smaller businesses like retailers on Etsy. A homemade mask tutorial is available on the CDC website, Joann Fabrics and YouTube.

A hearing for the Alaska House Health and Social Services Committee on the State’s COVID-19 response at the Anchorage Legislative Office in Anchorage on June 24 gathered Alaska health officials to discuss the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alaska. Dr. Helen Adams is an emergency medicine physician at Providence Alaska Medical Center. She stressed the importance of wearing masks to slow the spread of the virus and also pointed out that it would help the economy.

“I see, personally, that the widespread use of masks in public spaces is the lesser of two evils,” Adams said. “It creates the opportunity for us to continue to go about our business, to participate in our economy, and the alternative is that we could potentially have more sick people, more cost to the state in Medicaid costs, or we’d find ourselves isolating again,” Adams said.

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Alaska has 383 active cases and 14 deaths as of June 28. New cases for one day totaled 29 on June 27 as well, which is the highest number of cases in one day in Alaska so far. State Epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin was also present at the hearing on June 24 and urged Alaskans to use measures to protect each other, such as masks.

“Until we have an effective vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, we need to continue to rely on non-pharmaceutical, public-health interventions to slow the spread of this virus,” McLaughlin said.

For more information that is updated daily for COVID-19 in Alaska, visit the Alaska COVID-19 Response Hub. More detailed information about the emergency mask mandate is available at The Municipality of Anchorage Cornavirus Response Page. A U.S. COVID-19 map and information can also be found at NPR.