Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order Tuesday that prohibits public universities and community colleges from mandating COVID-19 tests, vaccines and masks for students to participate in learning. The decision comes days after Ducey criticized a recent announcement from Arizona State University that outlined COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming school year.
"The vaccine works, and we encourage Arizonans to take it. But it is a choice and we need to keep it that way," Ducey said in a statement. "Public education is a public right, and taxpayers are paying for it. We need to make our public universities available for students to return to learning. They have already missed out on too much learning."
This week, Arizona State University's vice president of student services Joanne Vogel said in an email to students that those who have received an authorized COVID shot and who have uploaded their immunization records through a university portal will no longer have to wear face masks on campus. The university said that unvaccinated students will be selected for COVID testing and that face coverings will continue to be a requirement, as well as online daily health check uploads.
"As Sun Devils, we commit to being part of the ASU Community of Care where we take care of ourselves, each other and our community," Vogel said in the email. "Managing COVID-19 is both a matter of personal responsibility and public health, and we ask that you follow all protocols as they apply to our collective well-being."
Ducey said that Arizona State's protocols for the fall were "bad policy, with no basis in public health. He tweeted a quote from Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she said: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected."
"Even the Biden administration has been more reasonable," Ducey, who is a Republican, tweeted.
Travis Graham, a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, said on Tuesday that the university's policy is "blatantly discriminatory" against unvaccinated students and called for Vogel's termination. "It's important that this tyrannical policy must not prevent any Arizonan from accessing our state university system," Graham said in a statement. "For that reason, I am today calling for the policy's immediate rescindment."
A university spokesperson told CBS News that Arizona State will comply with the governor's executive order and amend its previous protocols.
"This week, we informed our student population of what to expect when they return to campus for the fall semester. We did not communicate a vaccine mandate. We reiterated our message that we expect students to get vaccinated given the health benefits, but also offered students a choice in the matter," the school said. "And, we communicated a continuation of existing health protocols for students who are not yet vaccinated as they are at higher risk for infection and spreading the virus."
The university had referenced guidelines from the CDC that recommend higher education institutions implement key prevention strategies.
Ducey said he is working with lawmakers to codify his executive order into law.
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