Judge Nellie Ribaudo has lifted a temporary restraining order against St. Louis County’s mask mandate. Her ruling came on Thursday, weeks after St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and Dr. Faisal Khan issued a new public health order stating for residents over the age of five years old to wear masks. It applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
Ribaudo had previously denied the dismissal of the mask mandate case in September, writing at the time that she was puzzled by the county's move to extend the prior mask order rather than issuing a new one. The judge's September ruling led Page and Khan to do just that, and the county issued a new mask mandate on September 27.
The newly issued public health order was the catalyst for lifting the previous restraining order, Ribaudo ruled, because the new order replaces the one issued on July 26. Since the previous order no longer exists, the restraining order isn't necessary.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office had argued in a press release that the new order was “ridiculous and illegal.” In yesterday’s hearing, Ribaudo denied Schmitt’s office motion to renew and enforce the injunction but did grant the office ten days to file a new petition.
The spokesman for the Attorney General's office Chris Nuelle promised Schmitt would file a new restraining order against the current mandate, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the current order is “illegal” under the law, which requires legislative approval for health orders that extend longer than 30 days in a 180-day period.
The September 27 public health order was supported by a majority of the St. Louis County Council, unlike the original July 26 order. After the ruling was announced, Page wrote in a tweet that the development “means that @STLCounty’s mask order stays in force.”
While the court also canceled a hearing for a permanent injunction against the mask mandate, a new hearing will take place on October 18 where the county will have to provide research and other background data to back up the need for the new mask mandate.
Today’s court ruling means that @STLCounty’s mask order stays in force. Enforcement has never been our focus. Our focus has always been on protecting lives and livelihoods. That’s why a mask order was adopted in July and that’s why one remains in effect now.— County Executive Sam Page (@DrSamPage) October 14, 2021
Page says the goal of the mask mandate is to help save lives — not punish those who are not wearing a mask.
“Enforcement has never been our focus. Our focus has always been on protecting lives and livelihoods,” Page wrote in his tweet. “That’s why a mask order was adopted in July and that’s why one remains in effect now.”
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