ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) -- A new mask mandate in St. Louis County is now in effect, St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page announced Monday morning.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt told News 4 that the new mandate failed to comply with state law.
"This is another illegal act from Sam Page and we're going to fight it every step of the way," said Schmitt.
The public health order, which was signed by the acting St. Louis County Health Department director Dr. Faisal Khan, will have the same guidelines as the original mandate announced in July.
“The new mandate will effectively replace the mask requirement that went in effect on July 26 and that was challenged in court. To be consistent with the judge’s order, we’re putting in a new mask order,” Page said touching on the temporary restraining order. “The judge has given us direction that rather than extending the previous order, the proper pathway forward in the eyes of the circuit court is to issue a new order.”
St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch said Page should not be allowed to issue another mask mandate until January 26 under a law regulating health orders that Governor Mike Parson signed into law on June 15.
"It's very clear in House Bill 271 that you can only issue one mandate in a 180 day period," said Fitch.
According to the law, only one 30-day health order is allowed during a 180 day period, unless an existing health order is being extended.
"We're going to continue to press forward for the cause of freedom for people's individual rights to make these decisions for themselves and their families. It's a continued overreach by this county executive and we're going to push back every step of the way," said Schmitt.
The mandate states everyone 5 and older in the county must wear a mask in indoor public places and on public transportation regardless of vaccination status. People are also urged to wear masks outside if they are in a group. During the briefing, Page said Rita Heard Days, the head of the County Council, wrote a letter saying she will not oppose the new mandate and “state legislation will not restrict the executive branch from putting one into place.” County council members will meet with Dr. Khan on Oct. 5 to discuss the importance of masking during the pandemic, the county executive stated.
“Pushback against the mask is slow to progress in slowing the virus. Confusion caused by misinformation about mask and vaccines is dangerous,” he said.
Currently, there are slightly fewer COVID-19 cases in the county than reported in late July. There are roughly 240 per day compared to 280, which is higher than the 50 per day documented in June. Fitch said he supports a person's right to choose to wear a mask but not a requirement to wear a mask.
"Where does the government come in to force everyone else to wear a mask in this particular situation even if they're vaccinated. That's the real rub here," he said.
Schmitt said he wasn't planning to file a temporary restraining order to try to stop the new mask mandate. He said he would battle it in the context of the ongoing lawsuit over the first mask mandate. The next court hearing is set for 10:00 a.m. on October 18.
For the full public health guidelines in St. Louis County, click here.