An extension of Sitka’s mask mandate in public spaces is up for a final vote tonight. The updated mask ordinance, if approved, will go into effect any time Sitka’s alert level is “high” through the end of March. When the Assembly approved the measure on first reading at a meeting in early September, it heard around two hours of public testimony from Sitkans. Many who attended the meeting did not support a mask ordinance, but several assembly members said they’d received far more emails in favor than opposed.
The ordinance passed on first reading on a 4-2 vote with members Valorie Nelson and Kevin Knox opposed. Mayor Steven Eisenbeisz was absent for the first reading.
Over the last week, interest in the mask mandate hasn’t died down. That’s due, in part, to an anonymous mailer most Sitkans received in the mail calling for residents to attend Tuesday’s meeting to speak out against the mandate. KCAW reached out to Sitka’s postmaster, who put us in touch with the postmaster in Louisville, Kentucky, where the mailer was postmarked from. A postal worker in Louisville couldn’t give out information over the phone, but said while the mailer was sent from Louisville, the company or individual that sent the mailer is based in Virginia. She said even if she could give out that information, it may not be helpful because it could be associated with a bulk mailing service in Virginia that was fulfilling a contract, making the origins of the mailer difficult to trace.
The mask debate even came up during a special assembly meeting last week that was meant to be dedicated toward the city’s grant funding program, Thursday. During public comment, Assembly Member Valorie Nelson, whose term ends at the beginning of October, stepped in front of the podium, clad in Tyvek coveralls, booties and gloves, said she was concerned about her rights being infringed upon.
“That’s the reason why I’m wearing the suit tonight. I flew back from my cancer un-diagnosis 10 days ago. According to some guidelines, I’m okay to be here. According to others, I should probably quarantine for the rest of my life because I’m not vaccinated. I can’t get vaccinated. But my health and my medical records are my own business. And if I get ticketed, because I’m not wearing a mask because I can’t breathe, because I have other side effects,” she said. “That ordinance that that you’re bringing up next week. It’s not enforceable. It violates commerce, free trade. It violates due process.”
Nelson said, however, that she still was unsure of how she would vote on the mandate. Hers was one of two comments against the mandate at the special meeting.
The Sitka Assembly meets at 5 p.m. tonight for a work session with Sound Development LLC, then reconvenes at 6 for its regular meeting. Raven News will broadcast the meeting live, following Alaska News Nightly.