Ducey signs bills limiting school mask and vaccination rules | Arizona News

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Monday that bars government agencies from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations and bars schools from mandating masks for students under 18 years, unless their parents approve.

The bills endorsed by the Republican governor are the latest measures backed only by GOP members of the Legislature responding to what they see as overly aggressive government actions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ducey has also signed bills declaring that religious services are essential even in an emergency, allowing clergy to make hospital visits if a visit is authorized or if a person is near death. Ducey never limited church services during the early pandemic shutdowns. Many hospitals have banned all visits to coronavirus patients.

The ban on school masks replaces one that was included in last year’s state budget but rejected by the courts. The state Supreme Court agreed with lower courts that the Republican-controlled legislature violated the state constitution by including a host of policy provisions unrelated to the spending plan in the budget.

It prohibits school districts or any other government entity from requiring minors to wear face masks unless their parent or guardian gives express permission.

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The second bill prevents the state or any local government from requiring employees or anyone else to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The bill mirrors an executive order issued by Ducey last year.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says wearing a mask during times of high community transmission of COVID-19 significantly limits its spread. But opponents say parents should have the final say on whether their children should wear masks.

The introduction of COVID-19 vaccinations is credited with limiting deaths and serious injuries, but opponents of the mandate say personal choice should trump government vaccination mandates.

Ducey recommended mask-wearing and vaccinations, but opposed government mandates.

The mask and vaccination bills were opposed by all Democrats in the Legislative Assembly. The measures on religious services drew broad bipartisan support, while the hospital visitation bill drew a smattering of Democratic support.

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