A vote at a St. Louis County Council meeting Tuesday repealed a new mask mandate there just one day after it went into effect. The council voted 5-2 following hours of citizen feedback and speakers both for and against.
Page is the man that recently signed to receive $193 million in funds from the Biden Administration's American Rescue Plan Act, saying, "I hope the Council will have a similar vision for these new funds from the Biden administration."
Tishaura Jones is the woman who recently signed a proclamation asserting wide-ranging but unspecified authorities to City of St. Louis Acting Director of Health & Hospitals Fredrick Echols to "take such steps, use such measures, and incur such expenses as he deems necessary," which may have implications into $168 Million that has not yet been appropriated.
The order required face coverings to be "properly worn by all individuals ages 5 and older" in all indoor and enclosed spaces in St. Louis County other than vehicles and homes. Children 2-5 were not so required but instead "strongly encouraged" to do so. The order allows an exemption for persons who have a medical condition or trouble breathing.
St. Louis Post Dispatch quotes Councilman Ernie Trakas, one of the five who voted to repeal the health order:
"Too many American men and women have given the last full measure of devotion for us to be cavalier with the very liberty they fought and died to provide. I will not abide any measures that seek to compromise or erode our liberty and freedom."
Despite Tuesday's vote, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page held a briefing Wednesday in which he said the mask mandate would stand, saying masks will continue to be required in all indoor public spaces pending resolution to an ongoing lawsuit from Missouri's Attorney General Eric Schmitt. A candidate to replace retiring Senator Roy Blunt, Schmitt filed to stop mask mandates in both St. Louis City and County.
Schmitt announced the suit in a Tweet:
"On Monday, I filed suit to stop the St. Louis Co mask mandate. Last night, the County Council courageously terminated that mask mandate. Despite this, County Exec Page believes he can still enforce the mandate—he cannot. We’re asking for a court order to remind him of that fact."
In another Tweet, he wrote:
"This mask mandate is about politics & control, not science. You are not subjects but citizens of what has been the freest country in the world & I will always fight for you."
Missouri House Bill 271 was passed after health orders stood last year despite dissent. The bill is intended to limit the power of "political subdivisions," such as public health agencies, to impose health orders. It limits any order issued "during and related to an emergency" that "directly or indirectly closes, or places restrictions... or otherwise limits attendance" of businesses, churches, schools, or any other public or private gathering.
The health order contains a pre-emptive statement against legal arguments that would use that wording in the bill:
"This Order does not, directly, or indirectly, close, partially close, or place restrictions on the opening of or access to any business organization, church, school, or any other place of public or private gathering or assembly and does not prohibit or otherwise limit attendance at any public or private gatherings. This Order also does not, directly or indirectly, require any business organization, church, school, or owner, operator, or host of a place of public or private gathering or assembly to restrict, limit, or otherwise refuse access to any individual. Rather, this Order merely regulates the conduct of certain individuals while in St. Louis County in the event that, and only after, they access an indoor or enclosed public building or space or public transportation vessel, as set forth herein."
But Schmitt's press release says his side believes otherwise:
"The lawsuit argues that both the City and County’s mask mandates are subject to the law recently passed by the Missouri legislature (House Bill 271), that places restrictions on local health orders [and] according to § 67.265.4, RSMo, 'The health officer, local public health agency, public health authority, or executive shall provide a report to the governing body containing information supporting the need for such order.' The defendants never provided that report."
New CDC guidance recommends "fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission" plus "universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status."
Kansas City's Mayor Quinton Lucas has said he will follow CDC guidance by reinstating an indoor mask mandate throughout the city, and North Kansas City Mayor Bryant DeLong did as well. Lucas responded to Schmitt's announcement on Twitter:
"Dude, the order hasn’t even been filed yet. What are you suing about? Do you want us to just schedule a debate on Fox News so you can get the press? I’m down!"
When Eric Schmitt went on FOX Business with Stuart Varney to discuss the lawsuit, he said:
"People are tired of being lied to by these bureaucrats and the ruling class. If you get vaccinated, you don't have to wear a mask. Well, in St. Louis, now, if you're vaccinated, you have to wear a mask. We know kids are very low risk. Kids now have to wear masks all day long. We're told Republicans are to blame for vaccine hesitation when it was Kamala Harris on the campaign trail saying that she wouldn't take it because it was President Trump's Warp Speed. We're told in St. Louis that they care about safety. Meanwhile, they had a 50 year high in murders last year, and their solution to that is defunding the police. People have had it, so we're filing a lawsuit because of arbitrary capriciousness not based on facts, not based on science. In fact, St. Louis City and St. Louis County had the most restrictive regimes in the whole state, and their numbers were worse than counties that didn't have any restrictions at all. They're making this up as they go along, and we've got to stop them."
St. Louis citizens cheer as council votes to repeal mask mandates at Tuesday's City council meeting/Photo credit: Laurie Skrivan, St. Louis Post Dispatch