Sabine Poux/KDLL

Local and national medical experts have recommended universal masking in schools to prevent the spread of the contagious Delta variant.

But the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District announced at a work session today it’s sticking to its policy of recommended masking districtwide and instead considering temporary mask mandates at individual schools depending on how those schools are impacted by COVID-19.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Soldotna Public Library, Soldotna Regional Sports Complex and other city buildings will require face masks starting Monday morning, as COVID-19 case counts continue to climb locally.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Face masks will not be required in Kenai Peninsula Borough schools when classes start up again this month — contrary to new recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that schools universally require masks amid the more contagious Delta variant.

The mask policy is part of the district’s new COVID-19 mitigation plan for the upcoming school year.

City of Seward YouTube

Seward is no longer requiring masks in public buildings. Its city council voted to let its mask mandate expire Monday night.

The city has been the only one on the Kenai Peninsula to adopt a mask mandate during the pandemic. The mandate didn’t have teeth and there was no penalty for those who didn’t comply.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Ahead of tonight’s meeting, the Soldotna City Council received nearly 400 comments in opposition to a proposed mask mandate. Almost 100 were submitted in favor of the proposal, several from hospital administrators and staff.

The comments were in response to Ordinance 2020-28, which would temporarily require face masks in public spaces in Soldotna.

Kenai City Council

Just as Gov. Mike Dunleavy has left decisions on mask mandates up to Alaska cities, all but one Kenai Peninsula city has left those decisions up to businesses.

Local officials say they’d rather give owners the option to enforce — or not enforce — mask wearing. But that hands-off approach has put some in a bind.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will require cloth face coverings for all staff and most students as the school year starts.

Superintendent John O’Brien announced the policy in a video on Friday morning. He says the policy applies to all staff, all students in third grade and above, and for all parents and volunteers visiting the schools.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Fred Meyer and Safeway are joining Walmart in requiring all customers to wear face masks starting next week.

Safeway’s policy goes into effect on next Tuesday and Fred Meyer’s next Wednesday, while Walmart’s goes into effect on Monday. Fred Meyer says small children and people who medically cannot wear a mask will be exempt and are encouraged to consider alternatives, like a face shield, and if not, requested to use curbside pickup or delivery. All three companies say they are doing so to protect communities and help slow the spread of coronavirus, which is rapidly spreading in many regions of the country.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

When the pandemic began shutting down schools and businesses in March, the best advice to avoid getting sick and getting others sick was to stay home as much as possible. As the weeks and months dragged on, though, it became clear that just staying home wasn’t really going to be possible. So businesses began reopening, and when they did, some of the employees were masked.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a cloth face covering whenever going out, primarily to avoid giving the virus to someone else if you are asymptomatic. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services highly recommends wearing a mask in public settings when it’s hard to socially distance, like in grocery stores or other indoor retail facilities. Because of the shortness of supply, both agencies are recommending people make cloth face coverings or use cloth to cover their noses and mouths, as opposed to using medical PPE, which medical workers need.