Gov. Doug Ducey issued Executive Order 2021-15 restricting several methods of COVID-19 mitigation at Arizona public colleges and universities, including the University of Arizona, on Tuesday, June 15.
The order, titled “Protecting Student Access to Public Higher Education,” states that public higher education institutions will not be able to require individuals be vaccinated to attend classes. Additionally, students can’t be required to undergo COVID-19 testing or wear masks.
The order provides two exceptions: Students working in medical facilities can be required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, and testing can be required in student housing if there is a “significant COVID-19 outbreak.”
It is unclear whether the order applies to university and community college faculty and staff as well.
Wednesday morning, June 16, UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins sent an email to UA community members addressing the executive order. He said despite the change, the university will still “offer a complete slate of in-person classes this fall.”
“We will work diligently to create modified mitigation plans that are consistent with the Governor’s Executive Order and that properly recognize the roles that vaccination, testing, masking and social distancing played in the successes we have had over the past year,” Robbins said in the email.
In the previous academic year, the UA used aggressive strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19, including requiring masks be worn at all times on campus when indoors and outdoors when not able to social distance, weekly COVID-19 tests to maintain student access to UA Wi-Fi, weekly COVID-19 testing for students living in residence halls and participation in various COVID-19 testing “blitzes” before holidays and graduation. University employees were also among the first groups able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Pima County as part of phase 1B.1.c: education and childcare workers.
UA administration has yet to release specific plans for how in-person classes will be conducted in the fall, so it is unclear how this executive order affects the university’s reentry plan.
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