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Anchorage Assembly extends COVID-19 emergency declaration

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Anchorage Assembly has extended into June a local COVID-19 emergency declaration, approving a shorter extension than Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson requested, with some Assembly members indicating this latest extension, the city’s eighth, could be the last.

The Assembly voted 6-4 Tuesday to extend the declaration, first enacted in March 2020, to June 11. Without the extension, emergency orders — including a mask mandate — would have expired, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Quinn-Davidson had asked that the emergency declaration be extended into mid-July.

The Assembly also called for regular reports from the mayor's administration on efforts to transition from emergency operations to normal operations.

Quinn-Davidson earlier this week announced a new order set to take effect late Friday that lifts size restrictions on outdoor gatherings but maintains mask and social distancing requirements. Other restrictions remain in place, such as on indoor gathering sizes. The new order seeks to link ongoing restrictions to achieving 70% vaccination of eligible residents, saying once the target is hit, the order is advisory.

Assembly Chair Felix Rivera, who voted yes on the extension, asked Quinn-Davidson to continue loosening restrictions. Rivera said he would like to see the declaration's effects be "as minimal as possible" by June.

Other members who supported the declaration said that to revoke emergency orders now could put at risk public health gains that have been made.

Two Assembly members who previously voted to extend the declaration, Suzanne LaFrance and John Weddleton, voted against it. Weddleton said the pandemic is different than it was last year. Businesses and residents now know how to take precautions and vaccines are widely available, he said.

Assembly member Crystal Kennedy, another no vote, said the target for removing restrictions keeps changing. Kennedy deemed as unrealistic the 70% vaccination target and said Quinn-Davidson’s new order pressures people into getting vaccines.

The Associated Press