Masks are now required to be worn by everyone in certain University buildings, according to an updated COVID-19 policy published Wednesday.
Face coverings will be required in classrooms and teaching or research labs where social distancing isn't possible. At the time of publication, the policy does not mention the requirement only applies to where social distancing isn't possible and will be updated to include it, said Jay Thorne, a University spokesperson.
Face coverings will also be required in clinical programs and centers that serve the general public. Additionally, face covers may be required in crowded outdoor settings or activities that involve "sustained close contact with other people," in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thorne claims the guidance complies with Gov. Doug Ducey's executive order issued in June, along with other state legislation, barring public universities and community colleges from requiring unvaccinated students to wear masks as a condition of participating in academic activities.
"Unlike the legislation applicable to K-12 districts, neither the Governor’s order nor the legislation applicable to the universities prohibits a mask mandate," Thorne said. "Instead, it prohibits the universities from either requiring vaccinations or imposing different requirements on students to attend classes (such as masking or testing) based on the student’s vaccination status or willingness to disclose that status.
"Our requirements apply to everyone on campus (students, faculty, staff, and visitors) and regardless of their vaccination status. They do not conflict with the order or the legislation."
The Arizona Board of Regents was made aware of the new policy. Thorne nor a spokesperson from the governor's office were able to answer prior to publication whether ASU contacted Ducey or his office before the policy was implemented.
"Governor Ducey is not supportive of mandates or virtue signalling," a spokesperson from the governor's office said in an emailed statement. "Rather than creating new mandates, the focus should be on promoting vaccinations — the vaccine is widely available, and proven effective. We’re not anti-mask; we’re anti-mandate."
The update comes after the University reported that students were isolating on campus for the first time since May. As of Monday, there are 79 active COVID-19 cases within the ASU community.
The University previously only strongly recommended masking indoors. ASU has slowly recommended more mask-wearing on campus throughout the summer in preparation for the fall semester as daily COVID-19 cases within Arizona continue to grow.
The update encourages members of the ASU community to get vaccinated, stating, "Greater rates of vaccination are the best tool available to reduce the rate of transmission in the community, which could change the applicable face covering guidance."
Ducey's executive order prohibits universities from requiring students to get vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination. The University has been encouraging students to receive the vaccine by raffling off gifts for students who upload their vaccination records.
Students, faculty and staff can receive a vaccine free of charge from ASU Health Services.
This is a breaking story and will be updated as new information is made available.
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Reagan Priest is a managing editor, overseeing and working with the six digital desks at The State Press. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.