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Anchorage Mayor Berkowitz to propose extension of emergency powers to July 31

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On Tuesday night, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz plans to ask the Assembly to extend his COVID-19 emergency declaration period to July 31.

While Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s emergency powers extend until Nov. 15, the mayor’s current declaration expires Friday.

“The public health danger posed by COVID-19 is still present within the municipality,” said Municipal Attorney Kate Vogel.

Vogel said keeping the emergency powers in place allows the administration to quickly impose emergency orders in response to the pandemic. It signals to the public that the coronavirus remains dangerous, she said. It also enables the city to take actions like reassign municipal employees to different duties to help with the city’s response and to move money around for needs like emergency shelter for the homeless.

“The types of emergency purchases that you need when there’s a sudden surge could still be in our future," Vogel said.

While many of the emergency orders Berkowitz has imposed with his emergency powers — such as the “hunker down” order and bar and restaurant closures — have been lifted, cases of COVID-19 continue to be reported in Alaska. On Sunday, the state announced a single-day record of 27 positive cases.

“There’s a recognition by the administration that COVID-19 is not less deadly today than it was two months ago,” Vogel said.

Previously, Berkowitz asked for the municipal emergency declaration to also be extended to Nov. 15 in line with the declaration period the Alaska Legislature gave the governor. But Assembly members balked, saying that was too long. They argued that the Legislature only gave Dunleavy such a lengthy period because it’s much harder for that body to travel to Juneau to convene and extend the declaration.

Vogel said because of that, the administration will move forward in an incremental way.

“There’s no indication that COVID-19 will be less of an emergency on July 31 than it is today,” Vogel said.

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