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Facing a deluge of comments, Palmer delays mask mandate decision a second time until early December

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: November 26, 2020
  • Published November 26, 2020
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PALMER — A decision on Palmer’s proposed mask mandate has been delayed yet again until next week as officials make their way through more than 600 public comment emails, many in opposition.

Palmer’s city council — actually two city clerks and the city manager — spent nearly seven hours during a special meeting Wednesday reading hundreds of emails into the record. The meeting began at 5 p.m. and wrapped up at midnight, the latest code allows.

There are still more than 200 emails left to go.

About 60 people testified in person during the first special meeting convened on the mandate proposal Nov. 18. Many spoke in opposition. That meeting was continued until Wednesday.

Of the public comments the city received on the mandate, four were labeled neutral, 205 in favor and 398 opposed.

There is no mask mandate in the Mat-Su, where Palmer is one of three cities.

COVID-19 cases in Mat-Su rose to new levels as winter set in. A summary statement from council members Dr. Jill Valerious and Sabrena Combs says the proposal comes in reaction to a “public health emergency that threatens to overwhelm our health system.” Gov. Mike Dunleavy earlier this month issued an emergency alert asking citizens to remain diligent in social distancing and masking.

If approved, Palmer’s emergency ordinance would require masks or face coverings in all indoor public settings or communal spaces outside the home, at outdoor gatherings, and outside when it’s not possible to maintain 6 feet of distance from non-household members.

It would become effective immediately and last no more than 60 days.

Approval requires a 6-1 vote.

The Kenai Peninsula city of Seward this week unanimously passed a mask mandate.