ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) -- Less than 24 hours after the St. Louis County Council voted to overturn the mask mandate, County Executive Dr. Sam Page stands firm on his stance.
“Let’s make it clear that the mask mandate remains in place,” Page started his Wednesday briefing. “There is currently a lawsuit challenging that mandate. Until that’s resolved, masks will be required in all indoor public spaces.”
On Monday, Page and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, announced mask mandates for their communities. They requires everyone wear a mask in indoor public settings, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.
Only one day after it went into effect, a mask mandate in St. Louis County was repealed with a 5-2 vote. The mandate was discussed at Tuesday evening's St. Louis County Council meeting, and many members of the public spoke out, mostly against the mandate. Many speakers said it is an issue of freedom, while one said the mandate could be helpful.
Interim St. Louis County Health Director Faisal Khan told the council that data backs up a mandate, citing rising hospitalizations and an increasing number of younger COVID-19 patients.
Councilman Tim Fitch led the effort to overturn the mask mandate and insisted it was no longer valid.
"It was terminated last night by a bipartisan supermajority of the county council," he said.
A majority of the council believed that the enactment of the mandate failed to comply with a recently enacted law, House Bill 271, that places limits on emergency public health orders.
"In the meeting we were very clear this was about following state law," said council chairwoman Rita Heard-Days.
Page said the wording of HB 271 refers to closing businesses or limiting capacity but doesn't include any mention of masks and therefore doesn't apply to the mask mandate. But Fitch contends the law references restricting access to businesses and be believes a mask mandate does that.
"Individuals will try to go into a specific business without a mask or they were told, you can't come in without a mask. Did that just restrict the access? I'll let you answer that and let the public answer that. I think it does," he said.
Councilwoman Lisa Clancy said before the Tuesday night meeting that a legal opinion says the mandate is on solid ground and that the council should consider the impact if its decision.
"I wish we would take the politics out of this and center our community members, especially those who can't get vaccinated. I'm sitting here next to my seven-week-old baby and I have a 5-year-old too, and children in my community that are especially at-risk right now, and we really all need to be considering that," she said.
On Wednesday, Clancy put out a statement that said she would propose a mask mandate at the council's next meeting.
Page said previous emergency health orders have faced legal challenge and held up in court. He was confident the mask mandate would also.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit Monday in an effort to stop the mask mandate for St. Louis City and County.
Since November 2020, lawsuits have been filed against the county’s COVID-19 restrictions including 40 restaurants who sued over indoor restrictions.
As of June 1, there were 40 COVID cases per day reported with a positivity rate of 2.9 percent in St. Louis County. As of Tuesday, the number of cases rose to 243 with a positivity rate of 10.5 percent. Over 50 percent of residents have begun the vaccinated process, the county executive said.
“The Delta variant is highly transmissible and jeopardizing out progress,” Page stressed.
“We can’t idly by and let the Delta variant rack up more and more victims with each passing day."
The Department of Public Health said they have no comment on the legal status of the mask mandate but cited the CDC's recent guidance, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging. The organization also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
For more information on vaccine information and place to get vaccinated, head to Revive STL's website.