Lines drawn after mask order goes into effect in Anchorage

N95 masks (Source: MGN)
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Monday marked the first day that Anchorage residents were required to wear masks inside all buildings aside from an individual's home in the Municipality. Hours into it going into effect, thousands of residents began voicing their opinions either for or against the decision.

KTUU Reporters launched a Facebook poll asking our viewers if they are for or against the order.

Starting Today, the Municipality of Anchorage issued a mandate to require wearing face masks when you are inside buildings that are not your home. What are your thoughts?

Story: https://bit.ly/3g6HOQI

Posted by Channel 2 News, KTUU.com on Monday, June 29, 2020

While not a professionally conducted poll, the results were very close. As of 7 p.m. Monday night, around 9,800 people answered the poll. It showed about 52% of people were in favor of the order while 48% were against.

Glancing through the comments on the poll, many in favor of the order feel that it's a good decision that will help keep folks healthy. Many commented that the order simply reinforces what they've already been doing.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of those opposed are not talking about how the coronavirus is a conspiracy or a hoax. The issue these individuals have in large part seems to be that they are not fans of being told what to do by the government.

One of those people is Kevin French, a concerned Anchorage resident who's recently retired from a long military career up here.

French said he thinks people are prepared to help lower case numbers without the need for mandates and emergency orders.

"People have already been demonstrating respectfulness and courtesy with their distancing and let's honor that," French said, "I've been here since 1976 and I don't to see my city turned upside down by an overbearing politician who is not being reasonable right now."

At Providence, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Bernstein said after seeing case numbers go up significantly after reopening, he said he is in favor of the mandate.

"I think I was hoping that people would be able to practice these important social measures of distancing and mask wearing without needing to require a mandate, but our observation was that this was not happening," Bernstein said.

French said much of his distrust in the decision to require masks in public comes from the anxiety and fear he said he sees blossoming in his fellow residents.

He said the decision was made with bad information and blamed early predictions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said more people would have perished from the virus by now than actually have.

"We've fanned the flames of fear unnecessarily," he said, "based on those early predictions by the CDC and now we've got everybody worked up wearing masks in their car and walking their dogs even so I think that's scaring people and that's just fear that's just unwarranted."

Bernstein stood by data from Alaska's case numbers. He said those individuals that are against masks should consider the needs and concerns beyond their own.

"The hope would be that people would understand that by wearing a mask they're actually protecting other people even more than themselves. It's helping your community helping those more vulnerable in the community that you may be," he said.

By now, it's common knowledge that certain people have more to risk from exposure to the virus. French thinks that the people at the highest risk should be receiving orders and guidelines for their own safety.

"Those are the main groups of people we need to be worried about. You don't throw punitive mandates on the entire population when healthy people are gonna recover just fine and when we have people who are fitting into the category who are higher risk, let's take care of them make sure they stay home, make sure they wear a mask everywhere they go," he said.

When French met with Channel 2 reporters, he did have a mask handy with him. He said while he takes the pandemic seriously, the climate around the decision to require masks is one that invites resistance. He said many citizens think the same way he does, and they won't be quiet about it.

As a healthcare provider, Bernstein wants to see those case numbers go down. He also wants the wheels of the economy spinning again. While an inconvenience to those against, he also sees this as an aid to businesses that already require masks through their own policies. He hopes the order will lead to fewer arguments between owners and customers.

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