Arizona Governor Doug Ducey says the state’s progress in the immunization campaign means the nearly yearlong school mask mandate can be repealed and that there is no need for people to present proof of vaccination.
The Republican governor signed an executive order prohibiting state and local officials from requiring people to provide their vaccination status in order to receive services or enter a specific area.
Arizona residents must not be required to share their private medical data, Ducey tweeted. “While we strongly recommend all Arizonans get the #COVID19 vaccine, it’s not mandated in our state – and it never will be,” he wrote.
Ducey added that nearly 4.5 million vaccine doses have been administered across the state with a population of over 7.2 million. He said that over 1.9 million people have been fully vaccinated in Arizona to date.
The move comes after several news outlets reported that US President Joe Biden’s administration is working with companies on a method that would allow people to prove they have been vaccinated. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki later ruled out the idea of a federal vaccination database and a federal requirement for Americans to carry “a single vaccination credential.”
Nevertheless, the prospect startled some Republicans, prompting Andy Biggs, a representative from Arizona, to introduce a bill that would bar federal agencies from demanding proof of vaccination.
Ducey’s order mirrors that of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who this month banned state agencies and companies receiving state funds from demanding that people disclose their vaccination status.
Also on Monday, Ducey rescinded his July 2020 order that mandated mask-wearing in schools, arguing that many teachers have now been vaccinated as one of the priority groups.
“Teachers, families and students have acted responsibly to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect one another, and our school leaders are ready to decide if masks should be required on their campuses,” the governor wrote in a tweet explaining the decision.
The end of the mask mandate quickly drew criticism from Arizona’s top education oversight official, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.
She pointed out that children under 16 cannot get the vaccine, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommend that students, teachers, and school staff wear masks at all times. The step to repeal the mask mandate “destabilized school communities as they end what had arguably been the most challenging year for education,” Hoffman said in a statement.
Arizona State Representative Athena Salman, a Democrat, tweeted that Ducey has ended the mask requirement at a time when Covid-19 variants are “more contagious and harmful to children.”
Fox 10 Phoenix reported that parents have mixed opinions on Ducey’s policies.
“At restaurants, extracurriculars, the zoo, shopping, people have mask choice. So a school setting should be no exception,” Jenny Johnson, a parent who has been protesting against the mask mandate in schools, said.
Another parent, David Moore, said it’s too soon to repeal the requirement, because “we’re not there yet” in terms of vaccination.