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Schmitt challenges Jackson County mask mandate

After successfully blocking the enforcement of St. Louis County’s mask mandate, Attorney General Eric Schmitt is leveling a similar challenge against Jackson County

Schmitt filed the lawsuit in Jackson County Thursday, arguing its reinstated mandate was arbitrary, harmful to schoolchildren, and unconstitutionally vague. The mandate went into effect last Monday and requires masks for everyone age 5 and older regardless of vaccination status. 

“Jackson County’s mask mandate is yet another attempt by government officials to obtain, aggregate, and maintain power,” Schmitt said. “Requiring residents to wear a mask, especially in the face of a widely available vaccine, is ridiculous. My Office will continue our fight against government overreach and intrusion.”

The order is set to last 30 days to comply with a new state law imposing restrictions on local health orders.

The suit named Jackson County Executive Frank White, the county health department, and other officials. White defended the move after initial pushback earlier this month, touting masks as an effective tool against rising COVID-19 case rates

“From the beginning of the pandemic, we have relied upon our public health and medical professionals to provide us with the data and guidance that we need to make informed decisions based on science and not on politics,” White said. “Wearing a mask may not be fun, but it is our best shot at preventing our hospitals from being overwhelmed, keeping our businesses open and our kids in school.”

The county followed in the footsteps of St. Louis City and County and Kansas City; the Kansas City Council voted to extend its mandate through Sept. 23 Thursday afternoon, though another legal challenge from Schmitt is pending. 

A judge sided with Schmitt on another lawsuit Thursday morning, blocking St. Louis County from enforcing its mandate. The St. Louis County Council voted to repeal the order shortly after it was enacted, and the judge wrote her decision would “allow the citizens of St. Louis County to have a clear statement as to their legal obligations and rights with regards to face coverings.”

Jackson County has reported 1,077 new cases in the past seven days and 10 deaths. More than 47 percent of the county’s population has initiated vaccination, and 41 percent is fully inoculated.