At last night’s Homer City Council meeting, the council extended the City of Homer Disaster Emergency Declaration to October 27, 2020. And, they inched closer to a mask mandate.
Mayor Ken Castner said he spoke with Governor Dunleavy on several teleconferences last Wednesday through Monday, about a letter the council sent last month to the governor, requesting a statewide mask mandate or the power to declare masks mandatory in Homer. Dunleavy declined to mandate masks for the whole state but affirmed that the City of Homer can require masks.
”I very, very specifically asked about immunities we might get where they would hold us harmless if somebody complained about our authority to do it. And the response was, ‘Well, we have insurance policies and we have a court in Alaska that usually decides with municipalities on these things," said Mayor Castner.
One problem with patchwork masking regulations is that if communities on the Peninsula do not all require their residents to mask, then masking isn't effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Another problem is enforcement. The city will have no powers or personnel to enforce masking. The city is also unclear on whether they can impose quarantines and stay-at-home orders. Councilmembers and the Mayor expressed the intention to discuss, with the city attorney, how they might mandate masks in the City of Homer. They plan to take it up again at the next council meeting on August 10.
Councilmembers discussed the need to set guidelines and parameters for the City's CARES ACT funding - how it will be distributed to city businesses and nonprofits and how to determine eligibility for relief funds.
The city also passed an emergency ordinance authorizing additional expenditure of $357,579 for personnel, material and service costs for expenses related to COVID-19.
Derotha Ferraro, spokesperson for South Peninsula Hospital says the hospital has now identified 100 confirmed cases total through testing at SPH. This month the hospital had more employees test positive for COVID-19.
"That brings our employee total to 10 over the course of the pandemic. And that is out of 480 employees in the organization. The new cases are not associated with each other and do not appear to be contracted from occupational exposure. Really the main lesson learned from these cases continues to be the value of masking at all times when with others," Ferraro said.
Rachel Tussey from the City of Homer said the City recieved 500 masks as part of an order the State made to the federal government.
“…and Homers request came in at the beginning of last week. Our fire department washed and bagged 500 masks and distributed them to Homer Saw and Cycle, Skiff Chicks and Scott’s Pharmacy. So if you need a mask go to one of those three locations."
For more information on CARES ACT funding. Go to https://www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/covid-relief.