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Missouri attorney general instructs schools, public health agencies to stop mask, quarantine mandates

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has instructed local public health agencies and school districts to halt mask and quarantine mandates following a recent court order nullifying health officials’ ability to impose such orders. 

Last month, a Cole County judge said Missouri’s health department’s regulations — which allowed the state health director and local health agencies to implement “control measures” — were unconstitutional. The regulations had allowed for health directors to close schools or places of public assembly in the interest of protecting public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Judge Daniel Green deemed existing orders invalid. 

In dual letters to public health agencies and school districts, Schmitt said any mask or quarantine orders, or similar measures, issued under previous statutes are now null and cannot be enforced. The letters encouraged immediate action and warned of potential consequences should those orders continue to be enforced. 

“Public health authorities and school districts have gone unchecked, issuing illegal and unconstitutional orders in their quest to aggregate, maintain, and exert their new-found power. My office will enforce the court’s order across the state,” Schmitt said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic ignited a fierce debate in Missouri over local control and the powers local governments and health agencies have to mandate masks, closures, or capacity limits.  The crescendo of Missouri Republicans concerned about the impact of local public health orders culminated in new state law this year that set time restrictions on how long certain orders can remain in place without approval by a local governing body. 

“This case is about whether Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services regulations can abolish representative government in the creation of public health laws, and whether it can authorize closure of a school or assembly based on the unfettered opinion of an unelected official,” Green’s order said. “This Court finds it cannot.” 

“DHSS regulations break our three-branch system of government in ways that a middle school civics student would recognize because they place the creation of orders or laws, and enforcement of those laws, into the hands of an unelected administrative official.”  

Schmitt, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has been leading the challenge against mask mandates in schools and local communities as well the federal government’s vaccine requirements