Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) - The co-chairs of the House State Affairs Committee issued statements condemning a decision by Attorney General Kevin Clarkson that they say undermines the health of state workers in Anchorage.
Clarkson previously issued a memo claiming that state offices – including the Atwood Building and other offices in Anchorage – are exempt from a Municipality of Anchorage requirement that residents wear masks in public places to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“By discouraging the use of face coverings in state buildings, the attorney general is placing state employees at greater risk of catching COVID-19 on the job,” said Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage). “This is the latest reckless decision by the Dunleavy Administration that puts front-line workers at risk.”
“If we want to beat COVID, it makes sense to use face coverings when indoors,” added Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka). “Just yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence noted that face coverings slow the spread of the virus, and our chief medical officer, Anne Zink, has been putting forward this message since the beginning of the pandemic. I encourage the attorney general to adopt the advice of our vice president, our chief medical officer, and nearly every other medical authority who has spoken on this subject rather than undermining efforts to use face coverings to help stop COVID-19."
According to a press release from the Alaska House Majority, overwhelming epidemiological evidence indicates that indoor environments including office buildings put employees at great risk of COVID-19 exposure, particularly if some employees or visitors are not using face coverings in communal spaces.
The State of Alaska operates some of the largest office buildings in Anchorage including the Atwood Building, many floors of the Frontier Building, and the Department of Transportation offices.
The House State Affairs Committee and Health and Social Services Committees have held multiple hearings at which leading epidemiologists and physicians emphasized the risk of indoor COVID-19 transmission and urged the establishment of a face covering mandate to reduce the spread of the virus.