Anchorage mayor clashes with Alaska attorney general over local mask rule

The mayor of Alaska's largest city slammed the state's attorney general on Monday after the latter released a statement claiming that a local mask order did not apply to state buildings and facilities.

A statement from a city attorney employed by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz (D) accused Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson (R) of ignoring "public safety and common sense" in his statement declaring that an ordinance requiring mask use in public during the coronavirus pandemic “does not apply to State of Alaska buildings and facilities within the Municipality of Anchorage," Alaska Public Media first reported.

"Under Alaska law, a home rule municipality possesses all legislative authority not withheld by the legislature. The legislature has not acted to restrict Anchorage’s authority with respect to issuing mask mandates, nor has it exempted state-owned buildings from generally applicable local health and safety rules. This comports with both public safety and common sense: if the Municipality were to evacuate an area for fire danger, for example, our evacuation order would not exclude state employees or buildings," said attorney Kate Vogel.

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"The Attorney General’s memo sows confusion and unnecessarily risks the health and safety of Anchorage residents who do business with or work for state agencies," Vogel added.

Public employees are not currently required under the Alaska governor's orders to wear face coverings while going to work at public facilities, despite the state being one of many that has reached their highest daily number of new coronavirus cases in recent days.

Alaska had its highest daily case count last week, with 24. It remains far lower than other U.S. states in terms of total case numbers, with just over 760.