What’s next in court battle over St. Louis County mask mandate?

Missouri

CLAYTON, Mo. – A St. Louis County circuit judge is giving both parties in the St. Louis County mask mandate debate 24 more hours to find a compromise. Attorneys representing St. Louis County and the state failed to reach a compromise Wednesday after being ordered to work on one Tuesday.

The two parties were told by Hon. Ellen Ribaudo on Wednesday to keep working on a compromise and report back on Thursday.

St. Louis County’s attorney told the judge Wednesday the county offered a compromise. It was willing to publish a memo stating the mask policy would not be enforced unless there was an extraordinary case. Many critics of the mandate contend the order had no real enforcement mechanism in place.

The attorney representing the state told the judge the state would accept a mask recommendation but not a continuation of what he called an “unlawful” order.

Supporters of the mandate say a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, including younger patients, warrants action. Some business owners expressed frustration and confusion after the St. Louis County Council voted on July 27 to overturn the mandate, one day after the mandate went into effect. St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page has insisted the mandate remained in place.

If the parties fail to reach a compromise, the judge will hold a hearing allowing both sides to present their cases before she hands down a ruling.

“The judge is trying to get the elected officials to do their job,” said St. Louis-area attorney Jay Kanzler.

He believes a compromise would result in a greater buy-in from the public and expects a court battle to involve politics.

“The problem with that is one side or the other is going to use it as a political football,” said Kanzler. “That’s not what we need right now.”

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