Missouri AG Announces Legal Challenge to St. Louis Mask Mandate
ST. LOUIS — City and county leaders in St. Louis announced Friday they are reinstituting mask mandates for vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens alike, a decision already set to be challenged in court by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
The mandate was reinstated in response to a new surge in positive COVID-19 cases throughout the state caused by the virus’ delta variant. St. Louis County reported 268 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing its total to over 106,500 cumulative cases.
“The citizens of St. Louis and St. Louis County are not subjects — they are free people,” Schmitt said on Twitter in response to the announcement. “As their Attorney General I’ll be filing suit Monday to stop this insanity.”
Statewide, Missouri reported 2,865 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 15 additional deaths. The state’s weekly average of new cases is at its highest point since late January, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The new rules require residents aged five and older to wear a face-covering indoors regardless of their vaccination status. Outdoor masking is not required but “strongly encouraged” by the order.
“We’ve lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems,” Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the City of St. Louis, said in a written statement. “The City and County health departments are taking this joint step to save lives, make sure hospitals can provide the care residents rely on, and protect our children so they can enjoy a full range of educational opportunities this year.”
Echols’ statement continued, “Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance when possible, and most importantly, get vaccinated. Vaccines remain one of the best methods to prevent severe complications and death from the virus.”
Under half of Missouri’s population remains unvaccinated, with 47.2% of residents having received one dose and 40.8% receiving both, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Forty-five percent of St. Louis County residents have been fully vaccinated, while 35.4% of St. Louis city residents have completed the vaccine regimen.
The mandate will go into effect on Monday and prolong the federal mandate requiring face coverings on public transportation set to expire in September. Exceptions to the order include instances where individuals are seated in restaurants and bars or if the individual has a disability that prevents them from putting on or removing face coverings.
“The council can act as soon as Tuesday to terminate the County Executive’s new health mandate,” Tim Fitch, St. Louis County councilman, said on Twitter. “He still has not communicated to us his reasons for the mandate, as required in the new statute.”