City ends mask mandate

Most COVID-19 rules repealed; emergency declaration extended to Aug. 18

Mayor Clay Koplin. (May 19, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Updated May 20.

At a Wednesday, May 19 meeting, Cordova City Council voted unanimously to repeal most local COVID-19 rules, including a rule requiring the wearing of face coverings.

“I am very excited,” Councilwoman Melina Meyer said. “It feels really good to be in a spot where people feel safe again and people have the protection and access to the protection that they need. I think this is great news.”

Emergency Order 2021-01 repeals rules requiring individuals to wear face coverings in most circumstances in which social distancing is not possible; suspending all non-essential government meeting and agenda items; authorizing the city manager to close city facilities or limit hours of operation to protect public health; authorizing the city manager to extend deadlines for payments owed to the city; and establishing fines of up to $500 for violations of state medical quarantine orders and certain local public health rules.

“I’m very in favor,” Councilman David Glasen said. “There’s only one way to test the vaccine, and that’s to stack it up against the ‘rona.”

The emergency order also repeals a rule that required any business open to more than five customers at one time at a physical location within the city to post a notice detailing the COVID-19 safety measures taken by that business. However, even with the city’s mask rule repealed, businesses can still choose to require customers to wear masks or to observe other such measures.

Left untouched were rules authorizing the city manager to suspend licenses or permits for special events that might impact public health; to adjust personnel policies in order to provide sufficient staffing during the duration of the current emergency; and to enter into temporary agreements in order to promote the provision of city services and public health and safety during the current emergency. The emergency order also extended the city’s emergency declaration until Aug. 18.

The passage of the emergency order marked a departure from the city’s previously announced goal of confirming a 70% vaccination rate for eligible recipients before reducing public health mandates. At the council’s May 19 meeting, Cordova Community Medical Center Medical Director Dr. Hannah Sanders said that precise vaccination statistics for Cordova residents were unavailable, but that authorities were confident that well over 50% of all Cordova residents had been vaccinated. The decision to pursue a 70% vaccination rate before reducing public health mandates was announced before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s May 13 decision to loosen masking and social distancing guidelines for vaccinated people.

The fact that local virus cases have not resulted in community spread indicates that vaccination efforts are working, Sanders said. All Cordvans age 12 or older who wish to be vaccinated have had the opportunity to receive at least one dose of the vaccine, she said.

“We feel very comfortable with the city moving forward to no longer require the mask mandate,” Sanders told the council prior to the passage of the emergency order.

Cordova has reported a cumulative total of 130 cases, of which two are believed to be currently active, according to Ilanka Community Health Center data. Of the cases identified, 109 have been Cordova residents and 21 have been non-residents. A total of four people who tested positive for the virus have been hospitalized, of which one person is currently hospitalized.