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City of Dillingham drops mask requirement after three City Council members skip meeting

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Izzy Ross
/
KDLG
A Dillingham Public Health staff member administers a vaccine at the clinic in October 2021.

The City Council was set to consider extending the city manager's authority to enforce COVID regulations at its Thursday meeting, but half of the council failed to attend, so it didn't meet quorum.

The City of Dillingham rescinded its COVID-19 measures Friday, which included requiring masks in public places.

That’s after three Dillingham City Council members failed to attend Thursday’s meeting, where they would have considered extending the city manager’s authority to enforce those measures.

Communities around the state and the country are dropping mask requirements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new metrics for determining COVID-19 levels in communities, which changed its guidelines for protective measures, like wearing masks. According to the CDC, the Dillingham area is currently in the medium bracket, so it recommends that people with a high risk of severe illness talk to their health care provider about whether they need to wear a mask.

A November 2020 ordinance gave the Dillingham city manager the authority to communicate and enforce COVID-19 regulations. The council has extended that ordinance three times.

Last August, then-interim City Manager Chris Hladick used that authority to issue Emergency Order 4.0, which requires masks in public places and recommends quarantine and testing protocols.

The City Council was set to vote on whether to extend the city manager’s emergency COVID-19 powers at Thursday’s meeting. But not enough council members showed up to establish a quorum, so the council wasn’t able to take any action.

City Clerk Lori Goodell said all six council members were present at the two virtual council workshops before the meeting.

But after a break, half of the council didn’t come back. When the regular meeting started at 7:30, Perry Abrams, Kaleb Westfall, and Michael Bennett, were absent.

Goodell said the mayor waited 10 minutes before calling the meeting off. They still allowed time for members of the public to address the remaining council members.

“The authority to enforce emergency order 4.0 ends when ordinance 2020-22(S) expires tonight at 11:59 p.m.,” Goodell explained in an interview on Friday.

The council held a special meeting Saturday to address other items that were on Thursday’s agenda, including approving a capital improvement plan for next year, an ordinance to levy an excise tax on seafood imported for processing in Dillingham, and another ordinance to adopt an excise tax on the importation of marijuana.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.
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