Court temporarily halts mask mandate in St. Louis County

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – The mask mandate has been halted in St. Louis County for now. It comes after St. Louis County Circuit Court sided with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office today, granting a temporary restraining order over the mask mandate.

Schmitt’s office says the judge agreed with the Missouri Attorney General’s office that the St. Louis County Council had the authority to terminate the County’s health order.

 Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt tweeted: “Today we were in court to stop the St. Louis County mask mandate. We won. The people won. #NOMaskMandates

Attorneys for St. Louis County and the Missouri Attorney General presented their arguments to Judge Ellen Hannigan Ribaudo in St. Louis County Circuit Court this morning.

“We are disappointed in the judge’s decision as more and more mask requirements are put in place across the country to help slow this deadly virus. The CDC recommends wearing masks in public places and we ask everyone to follow that guidance as we continue our vaccine efforts,” writes St. Louis Executive Dr. Sam Page.

In the court document, the court noted that although some will take this court’s ruling as a victory there is no victory while the COVID-19 virus remains a significant threat to public health. There can be no victory until the residents of St. Louis County and the State of Missouri are no longer risking their health, well-being, and lives at the hands of COVID-19 virus.

Last Tuesday, the St. Louis County Council voted to overturn the mask mandate that was ordered by the St. Louis County Executive the day before. The morning after the vote, County Executive Sam Page said the mask mandate was still in place, leaving people confused. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit last week contesting the mandate.

After hearing the arguments, Ribaudo said everyone in St. Louis County wants to know who has authority in this case.

She said we stand in a situation with two different branches of the government saying two different things. She said there is no clarity without a court ruling as to which branch of government is the final authority in this context.

Neal Perryman, attorney for St. Louis County, said a temporary restraining order would lead to more confusion among county residents. He thinks it should be argued in court. He explained what would happen the temporary restraining order is issued and later overturned by a court. He said that would lead to more confusion.

Perryman also said the mask mandate does not close down businesses, put occupancy limitations in place, or restrict access to buildings so it is not in conflict with the new state law about public health orders.

John Sauer, an attorney for the Missouri Attorney General, said it is a clear-cut case. He said the factors to consider are that there was likely illegal conduct by the defendant and that the plaintiffs are suffering irreparable injury or harm.

Lawyers for St. Louis City and St. Louis County had the case moved to federal court, but a federal judge said most of the lawsuit deals only with state laws. It was then sent back to the district court.

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