Judge bars St. Louis County from enforcing mask mandate

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A judge on Thursday issued an order barring St. Louis County from enforcing a mask mandate while a lawsuit against it is litigated.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page issued the mandate last month, prompting the County Council to vote to rescind it. Page maintained that the mask requirement nonetheless remained in effect.

Circuit Judge Ellen “Nellie” Ribaudo then issued a temporary restraining order, finding that the state was likely to prevail in its argument that current law gives the council the authority to terminate the mask requirement. That order was in effect only until a decision was made on a preliminary injunction.

Like before, Ribaudo found in issuing the preliminary injunction that the lawsuit was likely to succeed. However, she wrote that the “virus continues to be a very real and significant danger” and said she urged the parties to work together to find “common ground” but said they were “unable to resolve their dispute.”

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Missouri has risen over the past two weeks from 21.71 deaths per day on Aug. 3 to 25.57 deaths per day on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Ribaudo also was critical of some who had claimed victory after the temporary injunction was issued.

“In a time where our hospitals are near or at capacity in their ICU’s from COVID-19 patients, where surgical procedures are once again being put off due to the strain on our hospitals from COVID-19 patients and people are being infected at rates significantly higher than many other areas of our Country how can one claim victory,” she wrote.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who sued over the mandate, praised Ribaudo’s latest decision in a news release, saying that he would “not stop in my fight against government overreach.”

Page said in a tweet that he was confident that people would “continue wearing masks to protect themselves & their community from COVID-19.”

Schmitt, a Republican, also has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn a mask mandate in Kansas City. The Kansas City Council on Thursday voted 10-2 to extend the mandate until Sept. 23.

Kansas City’s mandate, which was scheduled to end Aug. 28, applies to people over the age of 5 in indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status, with some exemptions.

On Thursday, Schmitt filed a similar lawsuit against Jackson County for enforcing its mask mandate. The lawsuit names Jackson County Executive Frank White, the Jackson County Health Department, and other defendants.

“Jackson County’s mask mandate is yet another attempt by government officials to obtain, aggregate, and maintain power. Requiring residents to wear a mask, especially in the face of a widely available vaccine, is ridiculous,” Schmitt said in a statement.

Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Colter Wall and his band dropped out of performing at the Missouri State Fair because COVID-19 travel restrictions prevent Wall from crossing into the U.S. from his home in Canada.

Wall and his band announced on Facebook that they also canceled concerts at the Iowa State Fair and the Railbird Festival in Kentucky.