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St. Louis County mask moratorium extended while parties encouraged to ‘discuss possible resolution’

A St. Louis County judge continued the temporary restraining order blocking the county’s mask mandate while also asking lawyers on either side of the issue to work together on a proposed solution. 

Judge Ellen “Nellie” Ribaudo granted a temporary restraining order earlier this month blocking St. Louis County from implementing a health order requiring individuals wear face coverings while indoors, regardless of vaccination status, in an attempt to mitigate rising COVID-19 cases. The temporary restraining order was set to expire Tuesday, but Ribaudo extended the order for two days while instructing both parties “to discuss a possible resolution of the issue.”

The parties were instructed to appear before the court for a virtual counsel status hearing Wednesday at 11 a.m. to report on their discussions. 

“I look forward to working with [Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s] office to accomplish our goal of everyone wearing masks,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said on social media. “Public health experts have told us masks save lives.” 

St. Louis County attempted to institute a mask mandate for indoor places alongside the city in late July but saw pushback from the county council (which voted to rescind the requirement) and the Attorney General’s Office (which sued).

In a 37-page lawsuit filed in the 21st Judicial Circuit Court in St. Louis County, Attorney General Eric Schmitt asked for the county’s mandate to be declared “unconstitutional, unlawful, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and invalid” under state law. The lawsuit said HB 271, signed by Gov. Mike Parson in June, required a report showing the need for such an order, but one was not provided. 

Kansas City and Jackson County have also implemented similar mandates this month amid rising COVID-19 cases and concerns about the delta variant; the Attorney General’s Office has sued Kansas City

A federal judge previously declined Page’s efforts to have the case heard in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. 

In St. Louis County, 47.5 percent of the population is completely vaccinated. Statewide, about 53 percent of adults in Missouri have completed vaccination. 

Two people have died and more than 1,500 have tested positive for COVID-19 in St. Louis County in the past seven days, according to data from the state health department. In comparison, nearly 13,000 people across Missouri have tested positive during the same time frame, and 54 people have died.