ST. LOUIS, Mo – A St. Louis County judge issued a temporary halt on the County’s reinstated mask mandate last Tuesday, granting Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s request to pause the ordinance until a hearing in court next week.
On July 26, St. Louis County executive Sam Page and other county health officials announced they were reinstating an indoor mask mandate for all individuals over the age of 5 years old. The County Council then voted to overturn the mask mandate the very next day.
The temporary restraining order will block Page and the county health department from imposing the mask mandate until August 17 when a court will decide if the council’s vote to end the mandate is valid or not. Judge Nellie Ribaudo cited confusion among St. Louis residents on whether to follow the council’s vote or the County’s order.
While Schmitt called the temporary restraining order a “huge win” for the citizens of St. Louis County, he also noted that the fight to definitively strike down the mask mandate isn’t over yet.
“Today, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office delivered a huge win for the people of St. Louis County and obtained a temporary restraining order, halting the enforcement of the mask mandate,” Schmitt tweeted. “This is an important, hard-fought victory, but our fight against unreasonable and unconstitutional government overreach continues.”
Schmitt filed a lawsuit after the County announced the reinstated ordinance and requested the mandate be deemed “unconstitutional, unlawful, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and invalid” under state law, referencing the newly signed HB 271. The lawsuit claims that HB 271, signed in June by Gov. Mike Parson, requires St. Louis County to provide a report detailing the need for the new ordinance, but the report was never provided.
Page attempted to have Schmitt’s lawsuit heard in the 21st Judicial Circuit Court of St. Louis, but a federal judge rejected Page’s efforts, saying the dispute over the new state law was an issue for state courts to decide.
“With this case involving the state itself suing state actors over an interpretation of a newly-enacted state law that the state adopted precisely to deal with local government health mandates regarding COVID-19, the fate of the mask mandates under Missouri law belongs in the Missouri state courts,” Judge Stephen Clark said.
After the temporary pause on the mask mandate was granted and his efforts to bring Schmitt’s lawsuit to federal court were rejected, Page made a plea for the County Council to adopt a mask mandate on Tuesday. He also called the Council’s vote to overturn his mandate “a purely political decision.”
However, with the majority of the Council and the County’s citizens seemingly opposing the mandate, it isn’t likely that one will be imposed until at least the hearing on August 17.