UArizona mask mandate in place as thousands set to move on campus

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 6:33 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - About 7,000 students will be moving onto the University of Arizona campus this week. Thousands more heading back to in person, normal-sized classes the following week.

The University of Arizona, along with Pima Community College, Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University are requiring masks indoors on campus when social distancing is not possible.

“There were a lots of conversations between the presidents of our three universities, our governing board, the Arizona Board of Regents, the governor’s office, and we talked through this, and we’re all in a in a good place I think,” said Dr. Robert Robbins, the UArizona president.

The schools all feel they are in compliance with the executive order Gov. Doug Ducey instituted because it’s a blanket mask policy and does not single out non-vaccinated individuals.

The order reads in part, “The Arizona Board of Regents, a public university or community college may not mandate that students obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, show proof of COVID-10 vaccination or place any conditions on attendance or participation in classes or academic activities, including but not limited to mandatory testing and mandatory mask usage, if a person chooses not to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine or disclose that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19…”

The University of Arizona is giving away some incentives for faculty, staff and students who are vaccinated.

Employees have the chance to get a permit for a garage of their choice, athletic/Art Live tickets or campus rec memberships. Students can get tuition and book scholarships, ZonaZoo/Campus Rec passes or lunch with president Robbins.

“There is evidence that incentives do still work in some cases, beside the continue mission messaging or explanation of the importance of vaccination, all of the public health measures that we put in place we hope everybody will be practicing once again which got us through last year very successfully,” said Dr. Richard Carmona, with the UArizona reentry task force.

UArizona said there will be signage showing where masks are required and free masks for students to use. Under state law, COVID-19 vaccines cannot be mandated now, and Dr. Robbins said FDA approval on the horizon likely won’t change that. though the Supreme Court just rejected to hear a case blocking Indiana university’s vaccine mandate.

“We’re trying to keep the university open so our students can come to class and learn, and progress toward getting their degree, so they can go on to graduate school, or professional school or go and get a job,” said Dr. Robbins.

The governor called the universities’ masking measures “toothless and unenforceable.” GOP officials are calling for funding to be withheld from school and institutions as they said are breaking the law.

“If you want to wear a mask, I encourage you to wear a mask, but the law clearly states that schools, universities, colleges, cannot mandate wearing masks, so it is a violation of state law,” said Shelley Kais, chairman, Pima County Republican Party.

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