Opinions

An Anchorage mask mandate would be an affront to our liberty

The Anchorage Assembly is proposing a mask mandate that will pit neighbor against neighbor, shop owner against customer, and friend against friend. They will be asked to report mask mandate violations and businesses not requiring customers to wear masks. The fines will be large.

I strongly oppose this divisive power grab by the Anchorage Assembly because it is destructive public policy based on bad data. It is an infringement on the freedoms guaranteed to every Anchorage citizen by our federal and state constitutions.

First, I want to make clear that I share deep concern about the COVID-19 virus. I am more than happy to work collaboratively and cooperatively with anyone to find reasonable and practical solutions to address the various twists and turns of this virus, while honoring and protecting my constituents’ fundamental freedoms.

In the three months since I assumed office, my administration has taken significant and meaningful steps to fight this virus and to protect public health. Those include the increase of tests, vaccinations and monoclonal antibody treatments in consultation with one’s personal medical provider. As of the writing of this piece, the total number of tests completed since we took office on July 1 is 163,094. The total number of vaccines given through our vaccination sites in that time is 5,455 doses, per our most recent situation report. The total number of tests over the two weeks since Sept. 14 is 35,483. I have also empowered my department heads to provide teleworking options to Municipality of Anchorage employees and have encouraged our citizens to wear masks wherever and whenever they want. So, while nine members of the Assembly spend a great deal of energy on stripping power from the office of mayor, I, as mayor, provide the real help and treatment this city needs to fight this pandemic.

I am not against masking; I am simply pro-liberty. I am committed to protecting the physical and mental health of our residents, but I am also committed to protecting their freedom. I devoted almost 24 years of my life in the military to protect the liberty and constitutional rights of every American and every Anchorage citizen. I do not intend to stop now.

It is simply unconscionable for the Assembly to propose yet another mandate that depends on out-of-date data. While the World Health Organization has recommended masking throughout this pandemic, it also has acknowledged that the science behind masking is inconclusive. For example, in December 2020, the World Health Organization stated that: “At present, there is only limited and inconsistent scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including (COVID-19).”

Similarly, a May 2020 article, published in the CDC’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal, found there is “limited evidence for (the) effectiveness (of surgical masks) in preventing influenza virus transmission either when worn by the infected person... or when worn by uninfected persons to reduce exposure.” The study’s “systematic review found no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”

A recent article published in the International Research Journal of Public Health studied the “total COVID-19 case growth and mask use for the continental United States.” The study found no “association between mask mandates or use and reduced COVID-19 spread in US states.”

Certainly, there are many studies that support the use of masks but, as I’ve just shown, there are also several studies that have found masking and mask mandates largely ineffective. That is why even the World Health Organization has recognized the science on masking is inconsistent and inconclusive.

Please understand, I share the concern about the staffing crisis at Providence hospital. But let’s remember that the staffing crisis existed long before this pandemic. The hospital’s leadership has only compounded the problem by mandating a vaccine that some nursing staff will refuse and, as a result, will be fired.

We do not need a mask mandate to address our health care staffing crisis. Providence’s self-inflicted staffing problems do not justify infringing on people’s fundamental rights. The people of Anchorage should not suffer the consequences of poor business decisions at Providence Hospital.

There are claims that a mandate is necessary because some believe the very exercise of our God-given liberty is fueling this virus. But freedom is our friend, not our foe — or at least it should be. It is the surest guarantor of our security, safety and health. But some seem determined to make freedom an alien in our city, a pariah in our restaurants, an outcast in our businesses and a stranger to our places of worship.

COVID-19 is a serious public health concern, but there is a greater long-term threat to the future of Anchorage, and that is the culture nine of our Assembly members are creating – a culture that is legislating away our liberty. As long as I am mayor, I will fight to make Anchorage a sanctuary for freedom and a refuge for liberty again.

Freedom and individual liberty are the inheritance Alaska’s founders passed on to us, and they are the legacy we are charged with preserving for future generations of Alaskans. I am duty-bound to stand against naked power grabs like this one. They are an affront to our Alaskan, and American, values. I invite the citizens of Anchorage and Alaska to stand with me.

Dave Bronson is the mayor of Anchorage.

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