Top Missouri leaders mud-slinging over mask mandate

Missouri

ST. LOUIS — The new mask mandate in the city and county of St. Louis that takes effect this week is being criticized by several state and local elected officials. Starting Monday, masks will be mandatory in indoor public places and on public transportation for everyone age five or older, even for those who are vaccinated. Wearing masks outdoors will be encouraged, especially in group settings.

The politicians opposing the renewed mask mandate include Governor Mike Parson, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and St. Louis County Councilmen Tim Fitch and Mark Harder. Schmitt, who is running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, said he plans to file a lawsuit to block the mandate.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones fired back during a press conference this morning.

“Already we see right-wing politicians trying to tell us what is best for St. Louis. Teeing off against our city to score political points. Our attorney general, who is running for senate and has a history of filing failed lawsuits, wants to file another frivolous lawsuit to suit his own interests at the expense of public health. It is easy to grandstand when your biggest concern is filming your next campaign commercial and chasing clout. Dr. Page and I are taking action now to make sure this crisis does not escalate or spiral even further,” said Mayor Jones during a press conference this morning.

Eric Schmitt made an appearance on FOX and friends this weekend. This is what he told cable news viewers about the mask mandates in St. Louis City and County:

“It is completely ridiculous. By the way, there is hardly any place in the country that is doing this although there may be more that come online. But, in St. Louis in particular, they are dealing with a raging violent crime crisis. There was a 50 year high in murders last year. You have a local prosecutor who doesn’t show up to court. Literally, does not show up to court, and individuals charged with murder have been released recently. The only solution that we hear essentially from city leaders to what they refer to as the safety of citizens is to defund the police and now requiring masks for kids and those who are vaccinated. This insanity has to stop,” said Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page also responded to Schmitt during this morning’s press conference about the mask mandate.

“Creating distractions for political gain is short-sighted at best and life-threatening at worst. As some passionate supporters of the previous president hold on to the bombast and misinformation we are laser-focused on protecting the health and welfare of people in our communities,” said Dr. Page.

St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch tweeted an image of a memorandum Friday, which requested adding an agenda item under “Other Communications” for discussion and possible vote to Tuesday’s County Council meeting. 

“The conversation we’re having on the County Council is now whether you should wear this (a mask) or not. The conversation we’re having tomorrow night is, ‘Does the County Executive have the authority, or his public health director, to issue these mandates.’

The answer is legally, clearly, is that he does not. That law that he relied on in the past changed on June 15 when the governor and general assembly passed into law the ability of the local governing body to approve recommendations from the public health director. That is what the law says,” said St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch.

Fitch says that Page has not asked the County Council for a recommendation on requiring masks.

“You heard him and the mayor say that this is about politics. It is about right-wing politics. I am not going to inject politics into this conversation. They did even though they will say that people are doing these things for political reasons,” said Fitch. “By the way, get vaccinated. I can’t say it any clearer than that. That is our way out of this.”

Missouri Governor Mike Parson posted a statement to Facebook about the mask mandate in St. Louis today:

“Dictating mask mandates when we have the vaccine is ignoring the real solution and eroding public trust. From the very beginning of this pandemic, we have recognized the importance of local control; however, re-imposing mask mandates regardless of vaccination status is WRONG.

These policies that don’t consider vaccination status reduce the incentive of getting the vaccine and undermine its integrity. The vaccine is how we rid ourselves of COVID-19, not mask mandates that ignore common sense.”

Gov. Parson on Facebook

“For those who are vaccinated this can feel like punishment. Punishment for doing the right thing. I have heard that and I feel that frustration. While the vaccine can prevent serious illness it can’t protect you from being infected with COVID-19 and passing it along to someone else, someone who may be more vulnerable. Until we get more people vaccinated we must continue to do what we can to protect ourselves and others. I wish we had more people vaccinated. But right now, this is where we are,” said Dr. Page.

How will St. Louis City and County enforce the mask mandate? Dr. Page says that they are looking at it on a case-by-case basis. He says that the folks who don’t follow the rules will be outliers.

Schools should be reopening in-person this fall with some adjustments for the new mask mandate. Businesses and restaurants will also not be changing capacity. You can read the entire health order here.

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