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Universal Mask Mandate Could Make A Comeback In Bethel

Elyssa Loughlin

During their Aug. 10 meeting, Bethel City Council could once again enact a mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Also during the meeting, the council will hold a public hearing for new rules regarding Bethel's bed and breakfasts. 


Bethel’s current mask mandate requires unvaccinated people to wear masks in public, indoor places. It also requires as city employees in public-facing roles to wear masks. But that mandate is set to expire Aug. 10. The new mandate on the agenda would require all members of the public to wear masks in public, indoor places.


According to CDC data, vaccinated people with breakthrough COVID-19 infections can carry just as much of the virus as unvaccinated people. That means that they are just as likely to be contagious if infected, and much more likely to be asymptomatic. But vaccines are largely effective. Vaccinated people are eight times less likely to get infected and 25 times less likely to be hospitalized. 


The city’s proposed mask mandate also states that residents shouldn’t harass those in violation of the rules. The mandate did not specify what harassment entails. The mandate would apply to employees of private businesses who allow in members of the public, even when members of the public are not present. 


Two other pandemic measures are up for reconsideration. One prevents water shutoff for Bethel residents who can’t pay their water bills during the pandemic. The other requires unvaccinated people traveling into Bethel to either get tested within three days of arrival, or to quarantine.


Also on the meeting agenda is a public hearing for a set of new rules for Bethel's bed and breakfasts. The rules apply to bed and breakfasts in residentially zoned areas. If passed, owners will have to prove that the bed and breakfast is their primary residence, and will be restricted to renting out a maximum of three guest rooms. Current bed and breakfasts that don’t fit the new rules would have one year to come into compliance. 


The meetings are still being held in person and over Zoom. Masks are required to attend in person. Meetings are being held at the ONC multipurpose building while Bethel City Hall undergoes renovation.