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Alaska lawmakers make masks at state Capitol optional

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska legislative leaders voted Friday to make mask-wearing optional at the state Capitol and then shed their own face coverings after the vote.

The decision by the Legislative Council followed new guidelines the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The council is composed of House and Senate leaders.

Under the new policy, masks are optional in legislative facilities, with some exceptions. For example, lawmakers can require masks in their respective offices.

“Sen. Reinbold, you can remove your mask now,” Senate President Peter Micciche said to the council vice-chair, Sen. Lora Reinbold, after the vote, with people in the meeting room laughing and clapping.

Reinbold has been an outspoken critic of mask rules. Other council members also peeled off their masks.

Rules were changed last month to ease testing requirements for legislators, staff and others allowed in the Capitol, requiring once-a-week tests for those unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated and exempting those who are fully vaccinated from testing, with some exceptions. Testing earlier this session was more frequent.

The policy adopted Friday recommends weekly testing for those who aren’t vaccinated and for those with COVID-19 symptoms or who return to Juneau after travel.

The Capitol remains closed to the public.

The Associated Press