The Ketchikan City Council member who pushed for a citywide mask mandate last month now says he’s uncomfortable with the prospect of violators being fined for not covering up. Ketchikan’s proposed mask ordinance will be up for discussion on Thursday.
City Council Member Sam Bergeron says the draft ordinance that sprang from his proposal to require people to cover their faces in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 isn’t what he envisioned.
“The ordinance presented or proposed is really a non-starter,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Bergeron had advocated for a mask mandate at the Ketchikan City Council’s last meeting. The proposed ordinance would require nearly everyone over the age of five to wear a cloth face covering in public.
He said Wednesday he still think that’s a good way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“I think that everybody should be wearing a mask. I think there’s consensus on that. I mean, up and down the line,” he said, “except for some folks who think it’s a violation of their personal freedoms, which I think is ridiculous.”
State and federal officials, including the Centers for Disease Control, state Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink and Gov. Mike Dunleavy, recommend mask-wearing when it’s not practical to keep six feet away from others.
But Bergeron says he objects to the ordinance’s enforcement provisions: a $500 fine.
“I don’t want to be inflicting fines upon anybody,” he said. “I think more than anything, what I wanted to do was memorialize […] the city’s position on how we should all be wearing masks.”
He says Ketchikan police and code enforcement officials shouldn’t be tasked with ticketing people. He says he’s confident that if the city tells people to wear masks, they’ll do it.
He points to Anchorage as an example: the Anchorage Daily News reported that after the municipality’s mayor issued a masking order, businesses saw an uptick in patrons wearing face coverings.
Anchorage’s mandate doesn’t spell out fines for violators, though officials say code enforcement officers could respond to flagrant violations.
Bergeron says he’d like to put together a committee of council members, city staff and residents to adapt Anchorage’s approach for Ketchikan.
He says he’d like the committee to devise a measure that cede more authority to Ketchikan’s emergency operations center to mandate mask-wearing depending on current risk levels.
“We just need to slow down a little bit,” he said. “Start working on the policy and get this policy out to the people and then approve it and get it ready to go when it’s needed.”
The Ketchikan City Council will take up the masking proposal and a long list of other measures at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. The meeting will be live-streamed at the city’s website and broadcast on local cable channels.