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Schmitt sues St. Louis County over ‘unreasonable’ health orders 

  

More than a year after COVID-19 shutdown orders and local control became prevalent issues, Attorney General Eric Schmitt is taking the fight to St. Louis County

Schmitt filed suit Tuesday against St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, the county’s health department, and its director, Dr. Faisal Khan, over shutdown orders, singling out restrictions on religious institutions, masking requirements, and other orders. According to Schmitt, he wrote to the county to address concerns last month and received a vague response before the county amended its policies — but not to the extent Schmitt requested. 

“From requiring a mask outdoors to subjecting citizens to government pre-approval for private events, enough is enough,” Schmitt said. “The seemingly unending control over people’s lives must end. Vaccines are widely available to all adults — it’s past time for St. Louis County to lift these restrictions, and that’s why I filed suit today.”

Schmitt’s suit argues the latest orders constitute “unjustified burdens on religious, economic, and personal freedom” and “reflects arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable government action.” 

Schmitt said the new “Reopen STL” order enacted after his letter still required masks for outdoor activities and retained mask requirements for students in the county. He pointed to recent Supreme Court cases in New York and California as precedent for his complaint. 

The suit levels eight counts against the county — two relating to religious exercise, one on violating the right to assemble, one saying the latest order is too vague, and four alleging arbitrary orders from the county. 

Page’s actions as county executive have been examined by several critics over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. A coalition of Missouri restaurants joined a suit over restrictions on restaurants and bars in the county last year, and legislators attempted numerous bills to restrict the power of health departments and officials. 

A push to curb local health officials’ power failed in the Senate in March, with opponents citing concerns about tying the hands of local officials in the case of future emergencies. Page was mentioned as the target of the legislation during its time on the floor. 

A parallel effort in the House has progressed to the Senate and is awaiting further action; majority leadership in the upper chamber previously said they saw a way forward with the House vehicle, but it’s down to the wire as session nears its end.   

The suit was filed in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, 21st Judicial Circuit.

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