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Gov. Ducey's executive order bans COVID-19 vaccine requirement, mask mandates at public universities, colleges

The new executive order from the Arizona governor says students cannot be mandated to take the COVID-19 vaccine or submit COVID-19 vaccination documents.

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a new executive order on Tuesday that prevents public universities and community colleges in Arizona from requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccine, show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, take mandatory COVID-19 tests or wear masks.

This comes a day after Ducey took to Twitter to voice opposition to an email sent out by Arizona State University saying that "all students enrolled in an on-campus academic program for 2021-2022 will be vaccinated."

"The communication that we issued this week is really a continuation of the policies that have successfully guided this university in our system please through the pandemic we have been a big proponent of continuing in-person learning," said Vice President, Media Relations & Strategic Communications, at  Arizona State University Katie Paquet. 

The ASU email said students were expected to be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to starting classes on campus on Aug. 19.

However, Team 12's Josh Sanders spoke with ASU officials on Tuesday morning who said the university is NOT mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for students. 

The executive order from Ducey provides exemptions for the institutions for students participating in medical or clinical training. 

The order also doesn't prevent institutions from encouraging students to get vaccinated nor does it prevent institutions from providing testing or asking for voluntary mask usage, consistent with CDC guidance.

A public university will be permitted to require testing due to a significant COVID-19 outbreak in a shared student housing setting, but must receive approval from the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

A spokesperson from ASU told 12 News the university's "commitment to working closely with the state to combat the spread of COVID-19 is well documented and has been of benefit not only to the ASU Community but to the broader community, as well."

Arizona's Board of Regents will also comply with the Governor's executive order, "The health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff remains an utmost priority for the board and we will work with the Governor to ensure our universities remain open and continue to provide voluntary testing and vaccinations for campuses and members of the community as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to ABOR Chair Larry E. Penley. 

But what is the difference between ASU officials requiring the Covid-19 vaccine versus requiring immunizations like measles

"This isn't the first vaccine ASU makes you get," said rising Sun Devil senior Joshua Burgett. "If you have an issue with this one, my question is why not when you first enrolled? What's different now compared to then," said Burgett.  

ASU is one of the largest public universities in the United States, serving all 50 states and 130 countries. 

Heather Relation and Bryan Easton's son will be a freshman on campus from Connecticut. They both agree the current Covid-19 vaccination policy is reasonable. "We both believe that students should be vaccinated. Have that done and get it over with. The system is only as good as the most dishonorable person," said Heather. "All students who are not vaccinated should be required to wear masks to discourage the virus from mutating." 

Valley physician Dr. Andrew Carroll reiterates the importance of following the science and CDC guidelines. "If you don't intend on being vaccinated, you should protect yourself and those around you by wearing a mask," said Carroll. "The testing on a regular basis makes sense because often younger people are asymptomatic and may spread it to vulnerable populations." 

"The ASU policy is based on CDC policy which at the current rate of science is the best way of going forward for getting kids back into classes," said Dr. Carroll. 

As for private colleges in Arizona, they are not included in the order. 

Grand Canyon University, a private Christian university in Phoenix, will not require students and staff to be vaccinated. The university is encouraging students and employees to be vaccinated and they have vaccines available to anyone who wants one, a spokesperson said. 

>> Read the full executive order issued by Gov. Doug Ducey here

According to ADHS, Arizona has administered over 6.2 million vaccine doses so far and just over 3 million people. In total 48.1% of Arizonans have received at least one dose. 

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