Attorney says St. Louis County mask mandate does not violate law

Missouri

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Does St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page’s mask mandate continue this morning or was it canceled Tuesday night when the county council voted to end it? FOX 2’s legal attorney Chet Pleban explained the disagreement out on the Lakeside Renovation and Design Weather Deck.

Pleban said the law currently says, “generally speaking, in a public health crisis, public health requirements, regulations, when they collide with your civil liberties or your civil rights, your civil rights lose.”

He said this was decided in 1905 in Jacobson vs. Massachusetts. This case involved Jacobson not wanting to receive the smallpox vaccine. So he was prosecuted and convicted by a jury. He was fined $5. Jacobson then appealed his case to the United States Supreme Court and the highest court in the land upheld the conviction. The Supreme Court upheld it because of “the public good.”

In the case of the mask mandate in St. Louis County, county councilman Tim Fitch said Page violated a new state law, but Pleban said according to his own understanding of the law, that Page is within his rights to enact the mandate.

Pleban said Page “can go ahead and issue some kind of a public health order,” and that order can exist for 21 days. After that, the county council has to vote to extend it.

“I don’t believe the county executive has to go to the council in the first instance to get their approval,” Pleban said. 

Although, he then said that the law is unclear if it allows for the county council to end the order during that 21-day period.

“I don’t think, necessarily that they can, but I guess the courts will decide,” Pleban said.

He also said the court will have to define the word “restrict.” Pleban said it is unclear if having to wear a mask into and out of a restaurant or store is considered restrictive, even though restrictive capacity limits were not a part of the St. Louis County health order.

Pleban said that he has gotten the COVID vaccine.

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