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Ducey bars COVID vaccine passports by government agencies
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PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey is blocking government agencies and some businesses from requiring customers to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

But the owner of your favorite restaurant or grocery store remains free to turn you away if you aren’t fully inoculated.

In the latest use of his emergency powers Monday, the governor issued an executive order barring any state or local government from denying access to any building, business, facility, location, park or other space simply because that person has not provided proof of vaccination. The same executive order says vaccination proof also cannot be required by government agencies as a condition of receiving any permit, service, license or work authorization.

Ducey also said that any business that has a contract with the state to provide services to the public is similarly prohibited from demanding documentation of vaccine status of customers.

“The residents of our state should not be required by the government to share their private medical information,” the governor said in a prepared statement.

But Ducey’s claim that he is banning so-called “vaccine passports” doesn’t hold up under closer examination.

His restrictions on what businesses can and cannot do covers only firms with state contracts. Companies that aren’t getting money from the state are unaffected and can shun unvaccinated customers, just as they now are free to require their patrons to wear masks despite the lack of any statewide mandate.

Potentially more significant, the order as crafted also does not affect what employers can require of their workers. Firms can decide to hire only those who are fully immunized.

And Ducey’s order also contains other exceptions to his ban on people having to produce proof of vaccination.

For example, hospitals, nursing homes and other congregate care settings still can deny access to patients, residents, employees or visitors.

It also leaves undisturbed the current ability of schools, child care centers and universities to demand a student’s vaccination records.

But those laws address the normal childhood diseases, things like measles and mumps. There is no current requirement for children to be vaccinated against other viruses, including COVID-19.

Finally, Ducey’s order does allow state or local health officials to require people to provide documentation of their vaccination status during any COVID-19 outbreak investigation.

The issue of vaccine passports has become a political issue since the Biden administration said it was developing standards for people to prove they have been vaccinated against the virus.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there will be no national mandate. But just the idea of it has raised fears that people might be asked for their papers.

It also comes nearly two weeks after the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an even broader plan. It would prohibit any and all businesses from demanding proof of vaccination for customers, regardless of whether they get money from the state.

HB 2190, as currently written, also would bar businesses owners from making vaccination a requirement for employees. But Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, said that verbiage is likely to be removed if and when his measure goes to the full Senate.

The order also comes as Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, is seeking a legal opinion from Attorney General Mark Brnovich on whether private companies can make vaccination proof a condition of being a patron or employee.

Dr. Cara Chrst, the state health director, said earlier this month she supports the idea of “vaccine passports” but does not want them to be something that people would have to show to enter certain businesses.

“It would be nice to have an electronic format of some of that,” the health director said. “But we’re not looking here at the department at making that a requirement.”

Still, Christ said, this isn’t a question for her agency.

“Business owners do have the ability to implement mitigation strategies,” she said, ways to protect against the spread of the virus. And that is not limited to masks and social distancing.

The order comes as the latest figures from the state Department of Health Services show that just 37% of Arizonans have received one dose of the vaccine and only about 25% are fully immunized.

“While we strongly recommend all Arizonans get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not mandated in our state — and it never will be,” Ducey said. “Vaccination is up to each individual, not the government.”

The scope of the governor’s order drew a sigh of relief from Garrick Taylor, spokesman for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We appreciate that this order has been narrowly crafted and does not impose new mandates on private sector businesses broadly,” he said.

The new order also spells out that it does not limit the ability of individuals to access their own vaccination records as well as to have them forwarded to anyone else.

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More migrants dying since push into remote, hostile regions
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PHOENIX (AP) — Migrants trekking across the Arizona borderlands have died at higher rates in the past two decades since stepped up enforcement began funneling them into remote, hostile desert and mountain regions, a sweeping new analysis concluded Monday.

The report by the University of Arizona Binational Migration Institute provides a multidiscipline look at migrant border death investigations in Arizona over 30 years. It draws on the expertise of anthropologists, geographers, other specialists and Pima County Chief Medical Examiner Greg Hess, whose office tracks the recoveries statewide.

Daniel Martinez, an institute co-director, said migrants “are perishing in some of the most treacherous and rugged terrain within southern Arizona.”

Authorities recovered remains of 209 suspected migrants in the Arizona border region in 2020, the second-highest annual number on record.

The remains of at least 3,356 border crossers were found in the Arizona border region between 1990 and 2020. They were overwhelming male, between the ages of 20-49 and from Mexico, although the share of Central Americans among the dead has increased. Most died from exposure or undetermined causes. Nearly two-thirds were eventually identified.

“This report is important because similar data is not available across the entire border,” said Robin Reineke, an assistant research social scientist at the university’s Southwest Center.

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CGUHSD prepares for in-person proms, graduations
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CASA GRANDE — After almost a year of switching between modified in-person learning and online learning, the Casa Grande Union High School District is preparing to give students an in-person prom and graduation.

According to Superintendent Steve Bebee, both schools will have an in-person graduation that will allow for four guests for each student.

“All staff and students are expected to wear masks,” said Brian Mabb, Casa Grande Union High School principal.

According to Mabb, students in their junior and senior year are only allowed to bring guests from their school to prom in order to keep everyone in the same community bubble.

“It feels odd, but they’re ecstatic,” he said. “We’re grateful.”

According to Mabb, prom will take place on May 15 and graduation will take place on May 18.

According to the district’s website, Vista Grande High School’s prom will be on May 1 with graduation on May 20.

“Due to Arizona Department of Health Services K-12 School Guidance for COVID-19, tickets are limited. First come, first serve,” the district’s website says. Vista Grande also clarified that non-Vista students are not allowed at prom this year.

In March, students returned to in-person learning full time after months of switching between online learning and being on campus only a few times a week.

Other high schools in Casa Grande are also preparing for graduation and prom. Mission Heights Preparatory High School will hold an in-person prom and graduation. Prom will be April 30 while in-person graduation will be May 19.