ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. ( -- The St. Louis County Council read public comments for hours Tuesday night and then again Wednesday, which prevented them from voting on two bills that would give the council more power when it comes to making decisions about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The bills would require council members to extend public health orders and any state of emergency that is currently in effect or is enacted in the future. If the bills pass and the orders, such as, the mask mandate and occupancy restrictions are not extended, they would automatically expire in 15 days. 

Tuesday night, the council said more than 2,000 comments had been submitted. The council read through them for a few hours before adjourning and agreeing to resume Wednesday at noon. The council voted to keep reading comments, and will convene Thursday after Wednesday's meeting.

Those in favor of the bills claim some council members are stalling and trying to delay the vote by attempting to read all the comments, which could take days.

Monday, one of the largest grocery store unions released a statement speaking out against these bills, worried it would lead to the mask mandate being lifted. 

“I think you need masks. It’s safe. It’s that’s simple," said St. Louis resident Jerome Murphy. "If I worked in the store, I’d definitely want you with a mask on if I’m working in there."

Councilman Tim Fitch introduced the bills. He said the bills are not designed to get rid of the mask mandate and occupancy restrictions. Instead, Fitch said the bills are intended to give council and opportunity to ask the county executive, Dr. Sam Page, how he made his decisions and ask that he back them up with science. Right now, Fitch said anything Page or the public health director issue automatically takes effect without council getting a say. 

“I believe these decisions should be made by public health officials, not by elected officials that can feel pressure from their constituents and not act in the best interest of public health," said David Cook, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655, a grocery store union representing about 8,500 grocery store workers in the St. Louis metro. 

Cook said the mask mandate is the only thing keeping his members safe from the thousands of people they're exposed to daily. 

“I’m only wearing this mask because they make me to go inside this store and I have asthma," said St. Louis resident Marcus Book. "If they didn’t tell me to, I wouldn’t wear it at all."

Page would still need to sign off on the bills if council passes them Tuesday. If Page does not act in 15 days, the bills automatically take effect in 15 days. If he vetoes them, council would have a veto override vote. 

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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