Several Arizona colleges to require masks in all classrooms

Arizona State University (ASU), Northern Arizona University (NAU), UArizona, and the Maricopa County Community College District announced that masks will be required in all classrooms and buildings.

"In certain indoor settings face coverings will be required," ASU announced on August 11. "Those settings include all classrooms and teaching or research labs."

The university also said masks will be required "in close-quarter environments where physical distancing may not be possible."

Students and faculty will be required to wear masks in the following areas:

  • ASU clinical programs and centers that serve the public, including ASU Health Centers, the Child Development Laboratory and the Counselor Training Center - this applies to both on and off-campus facilities
  • Meeting rooms, workshop, design and production studios
  • Indoor areas marked with posted signage

ASU officials said face coverings may be required in crowded outdoor settings and other activities that would require close contact with people for a sustained period of time.

The university offers free vaccinations to students, teachers and staff, and officials say the mask rules could change depending on vaccination rates.

"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," officials said.

Back in June, Gov. Doug Ducey said that Arizona college students could not be mandated to take the vaccine or to wear a mask. This decision came after ASU announced that students would be expected to be fully vaccinated before the beginning of the fall semester.

The three Democrats who represent Tempe and the ASU area, Reps. Athena Salmon and Melody Hernandez and Sen. Juan Mendez, praised the action. They said in a statement that with tens of thousands of students returning for the fall semester, university administrators must do all they can to limit the spread of the virus.

They criticized Ducey and Republicans who control the legislature, saying they "continue to block and oppose sensible public health efforts in order to score cheap political points with their party’s base with dangerous and deadly consequences for thousands of Arizonans."

Following ASU's announcement was the President of Northern Arizona University saying on Wednesday they too will be requiring masks inside school buildings, regardless of vaccination status.

UArizona is following suit with a mask requirement.

"Based on the current health conditions and aligned with CDC guidance as well as our commitment to deliver in-person learning at the University of Arizona, we will require face masks be worn in all indoor spaces where it is not possible to adequately and continuously maintain social distance," said UArizona President Robert C. Robbins.

The Maricopa County Community College District joined the universities on Thursday by announcing that masks must be worn indoors at all 10 of its campuses, regardless of vaccination status.

"The Maricopa Community Colleges’ goal throughout the pandemic has been to protect our community’s health and wellbeing," said MCCCD Interim Chancellor, Dr. Steven R. Gonzales. "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. I want to thank our employees and students who have continued the hard work of keeping themselves and our Maricopa community safe."

The community college district says it will host vaccine clinics at each campus beginning Aug. 21.

"As an added incentive, students receiving the vaccine at one of our college campuses will receive a $50 grocery gift card while supplies last," officials said in a news release.

The gift-card incentive only applies to Maricopa County Community College students.

A group of 26 Republican state lawmakers is now publicly calling for the governor to take immediate action, asking for him to withhold federal funding from districts not complying.

Dr. Joshua LaBaer with the Biodesign Institute at ASU says he believes mask-wearing is going to become more commonplace in the US and that the virus may become endemic.

"This virus is here to stay. I think we are aware that we're not going to get everyone to be vaccinated and as long as there is a population out there of people who are not willing to get vaccinated that can keep the virus around," he said.

A sign on an ASU campus encouraging people to wear face masks.

A sign on an ASU campus encouraging people to wear face masks.

Arizona on Thursday reported 2,970 additional COVID-19 cases, the most reported in a single day in the past six months.

Along with reporting over 2,000 additional cases for the ninth day so far this month, the state’s coronavirus dashboard also reported six more virus deaths as the pandemic totals increased to 955,767 cases and 18,412 deaths.

The last time Arizona reported more cases on a single day was 4,381 on Feb. 9.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic

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