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Schmitt says he will challenge St. Louis mask mandate

  

Hours after St. Louis said it would implement a mask mandate, Attorney General Eric Schmitt vowed to challenge the order in court. 

And at least one mayor has said he will not penalize businesses that choose not to enforce the mandate. 

Both the city and county of St. Louis said they would begin requiring masks on Monday for all indoor places as well as public transportation for individuals over the age of 5 years old — including those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Face coverings while outdoors will be encouraged, the city and county said in a joint press release Friday afternoon. 

More than 1,000 cases have been reported in St. Louis County in the past seven days, including two deaths, according to the state’s data. In the city, 389 new cases have been reported in the past week with no deaths. 

“The citizens of St. Louis and St. Louis County are not subjects — they are free people. As their attorney general, I’ll be filing suit Monday to stop this insanity,” Schmitt said on social media

Wildwood Mayor Jim Bowlin said he will instruct the city not to penalize businesses or other establishments that do not enforce the mandate. And Eureka Mayor Sean Flower said people should “respect decisions of businesses and vice versa, but the city will not enforce these orders or become the mask police.” 

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page have planned a press conference for Monday morning. A spokesperson for Page said Friday evening the orders had not been finalized. 

“Laws cannot be written by press releases. It is unacceptable the county executive and mayor usurp the power of the board of aldermen and county council,” Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, who represents part of St. Louis County, said. 

Coleman and other Republican lawmakers have raised concerns that the orders could violate a new law signed by Gov. Mike Parson earlier this month. HB 271 restricted just how local officials could impose health orders. It also gives local governing bodies the power to block such orders. 

However, a county executive spokesperson said they do not believe the order will be in violation of the new law. 

Missouri’s statewide COVID-19 emergency declaration remains in place. St. Louis lifted its previous mask mandate in May. 

Nearly 45 percent of individuals in St. Louis County have completed vaccination. In the city, that number is nearly 10 percent lower. 

Missouri has been the subject of national attention as the number of delta variant cases continues to rise. Earlier this week, Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, said Missouri, Florida, and Texas make up 40 percent of current coronavirus cases nationwide. 

Missouri health officials unveiled two vaccine incentive programs this week, including one giving 900 people the chance to win cash or prizes amounting to $10,000 over the next three months. In less than 24 hours, more than 100,000 people registered for the program. 

More than 11,500 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in Missouri within the last week, with 30 deaths. At least 1,700 people are hospitalized, including nearly 500 in the ICU and 220 on ventilators. About 50 percent of adults in Missouri have completed vaccination. 

This story has been updated.