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St. Louis County enacts new mask mandate

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page unveiled a new mask mandate Monday morning after the county was blocked from enforcing a previous order. 

The new order mirrors the attempted reinstated mandate in July: The mandate includes all individuals over the age of 5 years old, even those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Face coverings while outdoors will be encouraged, Page said. 

“Masks work in helping to keep our cases from escalating in St. Louis County,” Page told reporters Monday. “Masks help us mitigate the virus while we continue doing all we can to get those who are eligible vaccinated.”

The county was barred from enforcing the July mandate due to a lawsuit from Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Schmitt said he would “continue to fight back” against the new order. 

Page, a Democrat, said he believed the new order was in compliance with the court’s order to file another mandate; the court’s ruling found the original order ran over the 30-day statutory timeline to be renewed and was null. 

Page said the chair of the county council, which voted to reject the last mandate, had committed to upholding the new order. 

The council will meet with acting St. Louis County Health Department Director Dr. Faisal Khan to discuss the order next week. 

“Grandstanding legal actions at the state level have endangered residents here and across Missouri,” Page said. “Defying common sense makes no sense and comes at the expense of those at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from this virus.”

State Rep. Jim Murphy, a St. Louis County Republican and vocal opponent to mask mandates, quickly decried the move on social media. 

“Apparently [Page] is determined to punish the citizens and businesses of St. Louis County and spend more taxpayers money on another losing court battle,” Murphy said. “His order protects his ego, not our health.”

St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch said the order was “just another way of giving you the middle finger.”

Rep. Shamed Dogan, who is running to replace page next year, encouraged Schmitt to file another challenge and called for Khan to be fired for “discredited lies to and about St. Louis County residents.”

“Last year, Democrats and Republicans in the legislature, myself included, passed a law to limit unchecked executive power. We will continue to fight against unelected bureaucrats and overreaching executives who demand complete control over our health and economy,” Dogan said.

Page faced extensive pushback over the county’s pandemic response, including restrictions on bars and restaurants that led to a lawsuit late last year. 

Shutdowns prompted a bevy of local government-related legislation, including a bill curbing the power of local officials to initiate health orders, one of Schmitt’s arguments against the original mandate. Schmitt also alleged a mandate could be harmful to children’s social development and pointed to lower transmission rates among younger people.

Schmitt, a Republican, has leveled similar challenges against other communities reinstating mask mandates and filed a class-action suit to ban school districts from enforcing mask orders. 

The county reported 1,313 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths over the past seven days. Nearly 70 percent of the county’s adult population has received at least an initial dose of a vaccine, and 62 percent are fully inoculated.

This report has been updated with Dogan’s comments.