Judge orders officials to work out compromise on St. Louis County mask mandate

Missouri

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A St. Louis County judge has stopped a mask mandate for two more days.   

 Judge Ellen Ribaudo held a hearing on the issue Tuesday morning.   She extended her restraining order from earlier this month for the two days and also ordered the opposing sides, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, and St. Louis County Executive, Sam Page, a Democrat, to try to work out a compromise, Tuesday, and report back to her Wednesday morning.   

“I don’t think it’s a ‘we win – we lose’ situation,” Republican St. Louis County Councilmember Mark Harder said. “If she thinks it could be settled that way, maybe it can be. We’ve got to get this issue settled.”   

Harder endorses wearing masks to fight the spread of COVID-19 and the surge of the Delta variant, but he opposes a mask mandate.   

Page strongly supports a mask mandate.  

New state law gives the St. Louis County Council the final say. Councilmembers have voted down a mandate twice in August, with a bi-partisan majority.   

After the first vote, Page said a mandate was still in effect.   Schmitt then took him to court.   

Judge Ribaudo issued a temporary restraining order two weeks ago to stop the mandate until Tuesday’s hearing.   

In the hearing, she hinted at a possible solution:  a “strongly” worded recommendation instead of a mandate. 

“My thoughts are this is what we’ve been trying to do all along,” Democrat St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Rita Days said.  

“This is nothing new and it had to take a judge to say, ‘sit down at the table and work this out.’ This is what we knew from the beginning.”  

Days also supports wearing masks, but not Page’s mandate.  

“I’m vaccinated. I wear masks in a crowd and enclosed places … but that’s my choice,” Harder said.  

A brief statement from Schmitt’s office, Tuesday said, “We will follow the court’s requirements and report back in tomorrow’s hearing.”  

After the hearing, Page tweeted:  “I look forward to working with AG Schmitt’s office to accomplish our goal of everyone wearing masks.”  

Attorneys for the two sides would be meeting Tuesday, not Page and Schmitt, themselves, sources said. 

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