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Judge blocks St. Louis County mask mandate

A judge barred St. Louis County from enforcing its mask mandate Thursday, a win for Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

Judge Ellen “Nellie” Ribaudo enjoined St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and the county health department from enforcing the mandate, which would cover all individuals over the age of 5 years old, even those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The order also encouraged face coverings while outdoors. 

“The court in imposing a preliminary injunction will allow the citizens of St. Louis County to have a clear statement as to their legal obligations and rights with regards to face coverings, although it remains the court’s hope that our citizens will respect one another and where appropriate wear face coverings to protect themselves and others from the highly contagious COVID-19 virus,” Ribaudo wrote. “There is a great public interest in protecting the citizens from a highly transmissible and deadly virus.”

Schmitt filed the lawsuit last month challenging the constitutionality of the reinstated mandates. The 37-page suit asked for the mandate to be declared “unconstitutional, unlawful, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and invalid” under state law. The lawsuit said HB 271, signed by Gov. Mike Parson in June, required a report showing the need for such an order, but one was not provided. 

“The people prevailed yet again against County Executive Page and his health department for attempting to impose their will illegally on the people of St. Louis County,” Schmitt said. “Today, the Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the County from enforcing their mask mandate. I will not stop in my fight against government overreach.”

The order was stalled until the hearing to allow parties to discuss a “possible resolution.” Ribaudo found residents were caught between the order and the county council’s vote to end the mandate, leaving them without proper guidance on the matter. 

A federal judge declined Page’s effort to have the case heard in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri earlier this month, stating the question over the newly-enacted law was a matter for the state courts to decide.

Ribaudo also ordered the county to include a copy of the order on any future media or websites related to the mandate. 

“Today the court ruled that enforcement of the mask order is suspended while the court considers the full case. Public health experts tell us masks save lives,” Page said. “I am confident the people of [St. Louis County] will continue wearing masks to protect themselves and their community from COVID-19.”

Kansas City, Jackson County, and St. Louis have reinstated similar mandates. Schmitt challenged Kansas City’s order earlier this month.

St. Louis County reported 1,590 new COVID-19 cases in the past seven days and two deaths. More than 54 percent of the county’s population has received at least an initial vaccination, and more than 47 percent are fully inoculated.

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This is a breaking story and will be updated.