MO AG Eric Schmitt Heads to Court as St. Louis Reimposes Mask Mandates

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

On Friday, the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County (yes, they are two separate counties/jurisdictions) announced jointly that they intended to reimpose mask mandates for all in-door public places “and strongly encourage them even outdoors,” beginning tomorrow.

ST. LOUIS — Faced with a rising tide of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, St. Louis and St. Louis County leaders announced Friday that they will reinstate a mask requirement, for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents alike.

It is one of a few regions in the country to mandate masks again.

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Masks will be required beginning on Monday in indoor public places and on public transportation, officials said, without elaborating. Masks will be strongly encouraged outdoors, especially in group settings, but not required. The rule will apply to people age 5 and older. By a federal order that runs through mid-September, masks already are required on all public transportation.

Reaction on social media to the announcement was what you might expect.

Even among some Democrats.

Yes, the number of reported COVID cases has seen a sharp uptick in Missouri in recent weeks. As of today, Missouri is reporting 661,507 cases (total), with 79,261 of those characterized as “active.” That ranks Missouri 18th in total cases, though still only 29th in cases per million residents. Missouri ranks 19th in total deaths and, again, 29th in deaths per million. The alarm stems from the fact that Missouri has added 47,747 cases in the past month, for an 8% jump. (In comparison, between May 25th and June 25th, Missouri added 17,309 cases, for a 3% increase.)

COVID hospitalizations have risen, as well. Currently, Missouri reports 1,682 hospitalized COVID patients, with 494 of those in ICU. While that remains significantly below the high mark of 2,862 hospitalizations (back in December of 2020), it does represent a noticeable increase from the 628 hospitalized just two months ago. Further, Missouri has lagged behind in its vaccination rate. Currently, Missouri reports 87,412 vaccine doses administered per 100,000 residents, which places it at roughly 38th among the fifty states and DC.

So, yes, there is reason for some level of concern, particularly given the apparent uptick in “breakthrough” cases, as well. Regardless of one’s thoughts on the vaccine, what cannot be overlooked is how severely an insistence on masking for vaccinated people undercuts the messages encouraging people to get vaccinated. Once again, the impulse to “do something,” by elected officials (and unelected bureaucrats) is overriding both logic and legality.

The decision by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones to reimplement a mask mandate runs afoul of a law passed by the Missouri legislature this past session and signed by Governor Mike Parson in June:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson enacted a new law Tuesday limiting the duration of local public health restrictions and barring governments from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to use public facilities and transportation.

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When under a statewide emergency declaration, the new law limits local orders restricting businesses, churches, schools or gatherings to 30 days, unless extended by a majority vote of the local governing body such as the city council. If there is no state emergency declaration, then local orders closing entire classifications of entities or activities could last for only 21 days, unless extended by a two-thirds vote of the local governing body.

The law also lets local governing bodies halt public health orders at any time by a majority vote and prohibits cities and counties that receive public funds from requiring vaccination proof.

Members of the St. Louis County Council responded swiftly:

Further, Missouri’s Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, took little time in announcing that he would be filing suit Monday to challenge the new mandates.

Schmitt elaborated during an appearance on Fox and Friends, this morning.

Asked to lay out his argument for filing suit, Schmitt said:

Well, it’s completely ridiculous. St. Louis, for example — by the way, there’s hardly any place in the country that’s doing this, although there may be more that come online. But in St. Louis, in particular, they’re dealing with a raging violent crime crisis. You know, there’s a 50-year high in murders last year. We’ve got a local prosecutor who doesn’t show up to court — literally doesn’t show up to court, and individuals charged with murder have been released recently. And the only solutions that we hear, essentially, from city leaders to what they refer to as “safety” — concerning 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, which is why we’re going to file a lawsuit on Monday.

Schmitt, thankfully, realizes that it’s time to show some fortitude in the face of authoritarian overreach.