(The Center Square) – St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Wednesday that the public health order that re-imposed the county’s indoor mask mandate Monday remains in effect despite the county council’s Tuesday night vote opposing the requirement.
Page defended the indoor mask requirement and insisted it remains in effect regardless of the council’s vote until Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s lawsuit challenging the order is heard in court.
“I want to make it clear that a mask mandate remains in place in St. Louis County,” he said.
Citing the state’s increase in Delta variant-fueled COVID-19 cases, Page said requiring masks makes sense, especially for businesses.
“These cases, and this curve is shooting straight up. And if we don’t make some decisions fast, we’re going to be in a bad spot,” he said. “Masks will allow our businesses to remain open. Masks will allow us to keep doing what we’re doing while more people get vaccinated.”
The St. Louis County Council Tuesday night voted 5-2 to end the indoor mask order after a fiery two-hour hearing that featured testimony from about 40 people, most opposed to it.
Council members said they were not consulted before the joint mandate covering St. Louis County and city was issued Friday by Page and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.
The council also maintains the order violates a law adopted during the 2021 session by Missouri lawmakers, House Bill 271, which gives local governing bodies the power to block public health orders.
“State law gives us the authority to do what we did tonight, and the mask mandate has ended,” Councilman Tim Fitch said.
Not so, Page said Wednesday, claiming the order did not require council approval and the legality of HB 271 will be determined in court.
Schmitt on Monday evening filed a 37-page lawsuit challenging the orders, petitioning in St, Louis County Circuit Court to issue an injunction blocking the orders.
Schmitt, among Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt in 2022, questioned the mandate’s legality and effectiveness.
“This continued government overreach is unacceptable and unconstitutional, especially in the face of a widely available vaccine,” Schmitt said in a statement. “There is absolutely no scientific reason to continue to force children to wear a mask in school.”
Schmitt said St. Louis COVID-19 restrictions were ineffective.
“Despite having the most restrictive and unconstitutional orders in Missouri, St. Louis County and St. Louis City suffered some of the highest COVID-19 case rates and death rates in Missouri,” the lawsuit states.
The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services (DHSS) documents that St. Louis and St. Louis County case rates are lower than statewide rates and below those in most rural areas.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Tuesday recommended even the vaccinated wear masks indoors in areas with high COVID-19 transmission, defined as a case rate of at least 50 new cases per 100,000 residents in a week’s span. All but two of Missouri’s 114 counties meet that criteria.
St. Louis County and city joined Los Angeles as the first local governments to reinstate mask requirements last week. Kansas City will do so Wednesday.
“I will return Kansas City to a mask mandate indoors based upon national and regional health guidance and discussion with other Kansas City leaders,” Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted Tuesday night.
Originally Appeared Here