Even as the county council voted to reverse the region's mask mandate, Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas announced that he would still reinstate an indoor mask policy for restaurants and other public spaces.
The mandate, which came in tandem with the city of St. Louis, required all individuals over the age of five to wear a mask in indoor public places, regardless of their vaccination status. This order came despite death rates from COVID-19 being at their lowest since the beginning of the pandemic.
"We do have a mask mandate that is in effect in St. Louis County. It’s before a judge, the attorney general has filed a lawsuit and I hope that moves quickly to resolve this," he said.
In June, Missouri Governor Mike Parson enacted a law that limited the duration of local public health restrictions. It also barred governments from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination in using public facilities and transportation.
While this law does not specifically mention masks, it does allow the governing body of any city to terminate public health orders issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at any time by a majority vote. (Related: St. Louis orders all vaccinated residents to return to mandatory masking while indoors, effectively admitting that vaccines don't work to stop the spread of COVID.)
State Attorney General Eric Schmitt said before the council vote that claimed twin mandates from the county and city are illegal. Until the lawsuit is resolved, Page noted that the new health order would stay in place. This angered those who attended the council meeting.
“Sam Page and his supporters have done their best to make this discussion about masks versus no masks; they want to divide us,” Councilman Tim Fitch, Republican of the 3rd District, said. “Before we have that discussion, we have to settle his blatant violation of state law by issuing this so-called mask mandate.”
Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, a Democrat of the 5th District, on the other hand, voted against rescinding the order. She said that based on what she heard from legal experts, the council's vote has the intended effect of rescinding the public health order, but it may confuse people and businesses in St. Louis County.
Dr. Faisal Khan, director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, attended the meeting to answer council questions about the mandate, pleading to keep the mandate in place, based on the rising COVID-19 cases. He also said it was his duty to inform the council that the delta variant is "poised to cause more misery, more death, more disease, an increase in hospitalizations and inflict further damage on the population in the St. Louis region."
Councilwoman Shalonda Webb also said in a press release before the meeting that the "issue with the County Executive bypassing the St. Louis County Council and unilaterally making decisions for the people I represent with any official that doesn’t represent them."
By Wednesday afternoon, Schmitt was able to file a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in his lawsuit.
“On Monday, I filed suit to stop the unconstitutional, unreasonable mask mandates in St. Louis. Last night, the St. Louis County Council terminated that health order and mask mandate. Despite this, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page believes he can still enforce the mask mandate – he cannot," Schmitt said
"County Executive Page is wrong, and today we asked a court for an order to remind him of that fact."
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