Reinstated St. Louis mask mandate to draw legal challenge from state

(The Center Square) – A new mandate requiring masks be worn indoors goes into effect in the city and county of St. Louis Monday, but the state will seek to block implementation, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said.

“The citizens of St. Louis and St. Louis County are not subjects, they are free people,” Schmitt said in a Friday night tweet. “If the last six months have taught us anything it’s that when it comes to expansive, authoritative executive action we have to fight back with everything we’ve got – all the time.”

The tweet kicked off a weekend of blurbs from Schmitt about mask mandates.

“The people are tired of being lied to by leftist authoritarian politicians and bureaucrats hell-bent on control,” he tweeted. “Monday I’ll file suit to protect freedom. This St. Louis City/County #MaskMandate is insane.”

In a Sunday tweet, Schmitt – one of several Republicans vying to succeed the retiring Roy Blunt as U.S. Senator in 2022 – wrote: “Leftist St. Louis politicians have lost their minds. They’re busy defunding the police & instituting a #MaskMandate for kids & the fully vaccinated. People are fed up. That’s why we’re suing to stop them.”

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones fired back on Twitter Saturday, accusing Schmitt of playing politics with people’s lives.

“Our top priority is protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of the people of St. Louis City and County,” she said. “Nobody is surprised the Attorney General plans to file yet another frivolous lawsuit to serve his own political ambitions.”

Faced with a rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, St. Louis and St. Louis County joined Los Angeles County as the first local governments in the nation to reinstate mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents alike.

“We’ve lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems,” St. Louis City Health Director Dr. Fredrick Echols said.

“The city and county health departments are taking this joint step to save lives,” he added.

Masks will be required beginning on Monday in indoor public places and on public transportation, officials said, and will be strongly encouraged outdoors, especially in group settings, but not required.

The rule applies to people age 5 and older. By a federal order, masks are required on public transportation through September.

Several lawmakers raised concerns that the St. Louis orders could violate House Bill 271, a bill adopted by legislators this year and signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson earlier this month.

HB 271 restricts how local public health officials impose health orders and gives local governing bodies the power to block such orders, but city and county officials said they are operating within the scope of the new law.

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