In June 2021, Arizona passed laws banning vaccine and mandates at schools and colleges starting in the fall semester. The state's move stemmed from Arizona State University's (ASU) June 14 announcement that unvaccinated students should expect frequent COVID-19 tests and wear masks at all times when fall classes start on Aug. 19. Arizona's Republican Gov. Doug Ducey did not take too kindly to the announcement, calling it a "bad policy with no basis in public health."
Ducey then issued an executive order the next day banning mask mandates and required COVID-19 testing in public universities. His June 15 order provided an exception: Testing would be required in cases of outbreaks in dormitories. However, the mandate said universities must secure an approval from the Arizona Department of Health Services before doing so. A vote by the Arizona Legislature subsequently formalized Ducey's mandate.
ASU spokesman Jay Thorne said the university will comply with the order and "follow the honor system." He added that ASU will provide free vaccinations and COVID-19 testing on campus. Furthermore, Thorne said the university will "continue to encourage vaccinations" and "recommend that unvaccinated students wear masks and get tested."
Oklahoma also passed legislation that banned schools from implementing mask mandates unless under a state of emergency. The law also prohibited schools, including higher education institutions, from requiring COVID-19 vaccines and proof of vaccination. However, the law exempted medical programs in post-secondary schools from the prohibition.
Oklahoma State Rep. Kevin West, a GOP lawmaker who sponsored the legislation, said he received overwhelming support – mostly from parents. "It gives that authority [to wear a mask] to the parents," he said.
Arkansas also passed similar legislation in April that prohibited mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and face coverings in schools. GOP State Sen. Trent Garner, who penned the law, called these requirements "one of the most contentious issues" in Arkansas. "Ultimately, the best form of local control is the individual – and each family can make that decision," Garner said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance recommending that students, teachers and staff members not yet fully vaccinated continue to wear masks indoors. It also urged schools to resume in-person classes while maintaining social distancing measures. The public health agency also encouraged more families to get their COVID-19 vaccines.
However, some children had been negatively impacted by mask mandates – including the two children of New York City resident Natalya Murakhaver. She said that her children aged 11 and seven years old suffered from the city's face mask requirement.
"They're so dehydrated, and on hot days – they come out sweaty and exhausted. [Also], they have headaches … [and] have become more claustrophobic," she said. Murakhaver added that her seven-year-old daughter started mumbling after prolonged mask use. "Prior to the mask, she was speaking beautifully. [But] after the masks, we couldn't understand what she was saying," she elaborated.
Back in May 2021, Leila Centner of the Centner Academy in Florida discussed the negative effects of masks on children. She said during the May 30 Advanced Medicine Conference that despite not requiring masks on campus, her school did not have any hospitalizations from COVID-19. She also showed videos of two medical experts that pointed out the harm of face coverings.
The first video featured ophthalmologist Dr. Jim Meehan, who said that healthy people should not be wearing masks at all. He mentioned the different health problems children can suffer from while wearing masks – such as facial rashes, dental problems, anxiety, panic attacks and more. The second video by Centner featured pediatrician Dr. Lawrence Palevsky. The pediatrician said masks promote fear, stress, panic and anxiety similar to the brain's "fight or flight" response – negatively affecting children's cognitive development.
Later, a group of Florida parents sent their children's face masks for laboratory testing after a child developed a "giant rash" on his face. The child's mother Amanda Donoho said that repeated treatments did not cure the rash. It was only after a visit to a dermatologist that the rash was revealed to be a fungal infection caused by moisture accumulating behind the mask.
Donoho and other parents then sent their children's face masks to the University of Florida's Mass Spectrometry Research and Education Center for testing. Laboratory tests found that "pathogenic bacteria" responsible for sicknesses such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and meningitis clung to the masks' material.
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