City, county return to mask mandates

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones and County Executive Sam Page and their staff arrive for a news conference at City Hall to announce a return to a mask mandate indoors in public spaces on Monday, July 26, 2021. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

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ST. LOUIS  — St. Louis officials said Wednesday they believe that the city’s indoor mask mandate is still in effect despite a Jefferson City judge’s ruling declaring “null and void” all local health authorities’ pandemic orders.

Nick Dunne, a spokesman for Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, said the city’s current mandate was issued under a state law passed earlier this year requiring local-level legislative approval every 30 days to extend pandemic health edicts.

Because of that law, the Board of Aldermen four times has approved 30-day continuations of a mask order issued in July by Health Commissioner Fredrick Echols, most recently on Tuesday.

Dunne asserted that Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green’s ruling on Monday dealt only with local-level health orders issued according to rules from the state Department of Health and Senior Services. The city’s current mandate wasn’t issued under that authority, Dunne said.

“We do believe that the city’s mask mandate is still in effect,” Dunne said. 

Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, said Tuesday that Schmitt’s office was prepared to enforce compliance with Judge Green’s order across the state. Nuelle declined Wednesday to comment further. The state health agency had been listed as a defendant in the case.

Green in his ruling said all health orders related to the spread of COVID-19 should be lifted because they violate the Missouri Constitution’s separation of powers clause affecting the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

Schmitt has been pressing other court challenges of indoor mask mandates issued since July in St. Louis and St. Louis County; those remain pending.

Doug Moore, a spokesman for County Executive Sam Page, in a statement Tuesday said the county is aware of Green’s ruling and that the county isn’t “a party to that lawsuit.”

However, the company that owns Satchmo’s Bar and Grill in the county was among plaintiffs in the case Green ruled on. The suit was filed last year amid controversial shutdowns of businesses in the St. Louis area.

Moore also noted that the next hearing in Schmitt’s separate suit against the county is next Tuesday.

“We hope everyone will follow the masking and social distancing practices that public health experts recommend over the Thanksgiving holidays,” Moore added.

Originally posted at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday.

Mark Schlinkmann • 314-340-8265

@markschlinkmann on Twitter

mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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