Valley community colleges add mask mandates, joining Arizona universities
PHOENIX – Following the lead of Arizona’s public universities, the Valley’s community college system on Thursday updated its policy to require face masks inside all campus facilities and offices.
Maricopa Community College District announced the change a day after Arizona State University unveiled a similar policy. The state’s other two public universities, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, followed ASU’s lead later Wednesday.
“The Maricopa Community Colleges’ goal throughout the pandemic has been to protect our community’s health and wellbeing,” Dr. Steven R. Gonzales, the district’s interim chancellor, said in a press release.
“Requiring our students, faculty and staff to wear face coverings is another step in the right direction for our colleges to begin the fall semester safely.”
Like ASU did with its update, MCCCD said the mandate is permitted under state law because it doesn’t treat vaccinated and unvaccinated people differently.
Based on new data about the fast-spreading delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that even vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings.
MCCCD’s 10 Phoenix-area colleges start fall semester classes on Aug. 21. The district serves about 100,000 students, offering two-year degrees, certificates and university transfer programs.
The district is also strongly recommending vaccinations and will host clinics on each campus starting Aug. 21. Students who get vaccinated at one of the colleges can get a $50 grocery gift card while supplies last.
Pima Community College in Tucson also announced Thursday that it will be mandating masks indoors, with the requirement starting Monday, three days before fall classes start.
When asked about ASU’s mask update, prior the other schools announcing similar plans, Gov. Doug Ducey said through a spokesman Wednesday that he opposes mandates, although he didn’t challenge the legality of the move.
“Gov. Ducey is not supportive of mandates or virtue signaling,” C.J. Karamargin, Ducey’s director of communications, said in an email to KTAR News 92.3 FM.
“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.”
On June 15, Ducey issued an executive order declaring that public universities and community colleges can’t require face coverings or vaccines as a condition of class participation “if a person chooses not to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine or disclose that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Ducey gave the order to block ASU from implementing a planned face mask requirement anywhere on campus plus mandatory twice-weekly COVID-19 testing for people who aren’t vaccinated or who don’t report their vaccination status.
Language similar to the executive order was also included as a provision in a state budget bill passed in June:
The Arizona Board of Regents, a public university or a community college may not require that a student obtain a COVID-19 vaccination or show proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination or place any conditions on attendance or participation in classes or academic activities, including mandatory testing or face covering usage, if the person chooses not to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination or disclose whether the person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, unless the vaccination or other mandate is required by the laws of this state.
The June 15 executive order will remain active until the law goes into effect Sept. 29.
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