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Anchorage Assembly turns down another push to end citywide emergency declaration

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday rejected another push from two members to rescind the city’s emergency proclamation in an 8-2 vote.

The current proclamation is in effect until mid-April.

The motion to end the proclamation was proposed by Assembly member Jamie Allard, who represents Eagle River and Chugiak. Allard issued a memorandum to the Assembly in support of ending the proclamation.

“It is time to end the Mayor’s Emergency Declaration, restore the regular system of government, promote individual responsibility to follow health and safety recommendations, and get back to normal,” Allard wrote in the memorandum.

The proclamation gives the mayor special powers to enact emergency orders, and ending it would mean that the mayor’s current emergency orders, including the citywide mask mandate, would no longer be in effect.

Anchorage Health Department epidemiologist Janet Johnston told the Assembly that she strongly advised against rescinding the emergency orders that implement health precautions.

“We’re greatly expanding access to vaccines, and that is going to move us hopefully quickly to the point where we won’t need the emergency declaration,” she said. “But at this moment, we still have case counts that are actually starting to increase. Again, they had been coming down for a long time, but we’ve now hit a relative minimum and are starting to go up slowly.”

Assembly member Crystal Kennedy, who also represents Eagle River and Chugiak, was the only other Assembly member to support the motion to end the proclamation.

Other members urged caution.

“Why should we risk more loss when we have things dialed in? We’re working on the transition. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s shortsighted. And it’s a knee-jerk reaction,” member Meg Zaletel said.

At the Assembly’s previous meeting, there was push from a few Assembly members to revoke portions of emergency orders that were restrictive to people and businesses. That push failed but elicited more support from some members.

Following that meeting, Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson last week announced Emergency Order 19, which removed many of the city’s COVID-19 measures, including capacity restrictions on businesses, and it eased restrictions on gatherings.

Still, the order requires social distancing between groups of customers and wearing masks in public places such as restaurants and bars.

The Assembly on Tuesday also rejected a motion from member John Weddleton to revoke part of the emergency order that allows Anchorage sports teams to travel outside the municipality to participate in competitions only if all participants undergo pre-competition COVID-19 testing.

The city is re-examining that requirement and is likely to make some changes soon, Director of Economic and Community Development Chris Schutte told the Assembly.