St. Louis County mask mandate headed to federal court

Missouri

CLAYTON, Mo. – A judge heard arguments in a lawsuit to remove the mask mandate in St. Louis County today. A health order was put into place Monday to require everyone ages five and over, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the elected leaders and health directors of both municipalities.

The federal government issued new guidance calling for the return of mask-wearing in virus hot spots amid a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations nationwide. The recommendation came after St. Louis City and County issued the new health order.

The judge said that St. Louis County Courts do not have jurisdiction to proceed in this case. The judge also admitted that this will delay getting a legal answer to a question that the people of St. Louis County are entitled to. The case will be sent to the federal courts.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt tweeted this statement after the hearing, “At the eleventh hour and with no notice, County Executive Page’s legal team filed a notice of removal to federal court. This is a procedural delay tactic in an attempt to obfuscate and avoid answering on the law. The people of St. Louis deserve answers now, and we’re going to continue to fight in this case with everything we have.”

A new law signed by Governor Mike Parson last month limits the ability of local leaders to enact public health orders. Under the new law, officials could only issue health orders for up to 30 days. After that, the county government would have to vote on whether to keep them in place.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says the new state law about public health orders doesn’t apply here. More restrictions surrounding business closures than that are what triggers the state law. Not mask mandates.

County Council member Tim Fitch who led to the effort to repeal the mandate says Page violated new state law when he enacted the order. 

Fitch contends that Page had to consult with the County Council before moving forward with the mandate. But Page says he did nothing wrong. 

It’s unclear when the case will be taken up in federal court, and how long it might take for the judge to issue a ruling.

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