The Ketchikan City Council is considering requiring masks in public places. The proposal comes as members of the council say they’re frustrated with challenges in enforcing the state’s health mandates.
Ketchikan emergency officials recently warned of potential community spread following a high-profile case of someone breaking quarantine and attending a string of parties.
On Thursday, Mark Flora posed a question to local officials managing the city’s response to the pandemic.
“What can we come up with to improve what we’re doing so that we don’t have a repeat of what happened this past weekend?” he asked.
Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon took a stab at it:
“I think the only means we have at this point is that that incident is under review by the police department for possible prosecution,” he said. “The department has been in touch with the district attorney’s office.”
Charges could be forthcoming. But that’s up in the air. Ketchikan Police’s head of investigations told KRBD that police are more interested in what happened after the traveler’s COVID-19 test came back positive — three days after they broke quarantine
But an investigation is fundamentally reactive. It’s a response to something that already happened. When it comes to proactive solutions — preventing someone from breaking quarantine and spreading coronavirus — there’s not much local officials can do. Local police don’t have access to state records listing who should be in quarantine and where they should be. State health officials say it’s a privacy issue.
“So, that being said, we really right now, today, don’t have an effective mechanism to prevent a repeat of the episode from a few days ago,” Council Member Flora said.
Council Member Sam Bergeron offered a simpler solution, albeit one that’s likely to generate controversy.
“I’m in favor of mandating masks,” he said. “That means that everybody that goes to the grocery store goes to places that I frequent are protecting me and everybody else around him as am I doing every time I go in.”
Masks wouldn’t be required everywhere — he suggested indoors, particularly in settings where it’s difficult to maintain six feet of distance.
Bergeron said masks are essential to keeping the pandemic under control while life goes on.
“I think that face masks throughout the country and throughout the world are going to be what we’re going to need to do if we want to get back into the cruise line business, if we want to have a school and we want to control the outbreaks,” he said. “We need to do what we all know that we can do to prevent this.”
It’s unclear whether Ketchikan’s city council will impose a mask requirement in city limits. It’s slated to come up at the council’s meeting July 2.