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Ducey issues order barring universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccine

To rebuke ASU's fall COVID-19 policies, Gov. Ducey rolled out an executive order prohibiting mandatory vaccines, testing or face masks within public higher education

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A volunteer administers the COVID-19 vaccine at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex in Tempe on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021.

Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Tuesday that bars public universities and community colleges from requiring students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or provide proof of vaccination.

The order also prohibits public universities and community colleges from requiring unvaccinated students and those who choose to not share their vaccination status to wear masks and undergo mandatory testing.

The executive order came after an announcement from ASU Monday, which said students attending classes in person are expected to receive a COVID-19 vaccine but did not require it. 

The University laid out different expectations between unvaccinated students and vaccinated students. According to the announcement, students who don't share their vaccination status will be required to wear masks at all times on campus, participate in COVID-19 testing up to twice a week and complete daily health checks. Students who do receive the vaccine and share their vaccination status will be exempt from all of the previous requirements.

READ MORE: Students expected to have COVID-19 vaccine by fall, still not required

ASU said in a statement Tuesday it will comply with the new executive order and will "communicate changes in protocols to the university community."

"This week, we informed our student population of what to expect when they return to campus for the fall semester," the statement said. "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. 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."

Before issuing the executive order, Ducey spoke out against ASU's updated COVID-19 policy on Twitter Monday, calling it "excessive" and "with no basis in public health."

The order also states public universities can only require COVID-19 testing if a "significant" outbreak occurs in a student housing setting that "poses a risk to the students or staff." Any university wishing to implement a testing requirement must receive approval from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The University has required students and employees to participate in random COVID-19 testing and submit a daily health check for the past two semesters, a policy that ASU planned to keep for unvaccinated individuals. Students who were living in ASU housing were also required to submit a negative COVID-19 test result prior to the start of each semester to live in residence halls.

"We're allowing freedom of choice," said ASU President Michael Crow Tuesday morning on KTAR News before Ducey issued the executive order. "So we expect vaccinations, but if you don’t get vaccinated then you’ve got to follow CDC guidelines for institutions of higher education, which are quite clear, which is to protect the unvaccinated.

"So we're not really changing anything other than we're saying, 'get vaccinated,' and if you're not going to get vaccinated, we'll have the same policy going forward."

ASU announced last week it will return to pre-pandemic campus operations on July 15. The announcement included updated requirements for mask-wearing, COVID-19 testing and daily health checks for employees similar to those announced for students Monday.

When asked how ASU planned to enforce mask wearing for unvaccinated students, Crow pointed to the "huge numbers of people already vaccinated," and ASU is "not really seeing this (enforcement) as a big issue," he said to KTAR News.

As the order's only exception, students participating in clinical settings at a health care institution "may be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination and subject to regular health screenings and testing as determined by the health care institution."

The order will remain in effect until the termination of the public health emergency.

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Morgan FischerPolitics Editor

Morgan Fischer is the politics editor, she works with her desk to cover topics related to politics in the ASU community. She has previously worked as an intern for RightThisMinute. 

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