St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said in a press conference Monday morning that he still supports health orders despite an “uninformed court order” issued last week in Cole County
The county executive says his office is currently working to introduce a mask order to the county council, and he expects it to be ready for Tuesday’s meeting. He wouldn’t say if this was a direct result to the Cole County lawsuit, but added he would have information in the next day or so as the health department and legal teams process that question.
With news of the new COVID-19 omicron variant over the holiday weekend, Page echoed public health experts saying there’s no evidence that it has arrived in the county yet, but like the delta variant, it’s only a matter of time until it makes its way to St. Louis County.
“That's why it’s simply too early to weaken the mitigation measures that have helped limit the spread of COVID-19 so far,” Page says. “Wearing a mask is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself, your family and neighbors from COVID-19. That was true a year ago, it’s true now and it’ll be true a month from now regardless of the politics of the moment.”
He added that he is not considering any additional restrictions on businesses.
Page then pivoted to the legalities of mask mandates, taking aim at Attorney General Eric Schmitt and “radical ideologues who still don’t think COVID is real that have moved the goalposts so many times." He said notably, for over a year — but before Schmitt announced his run for a Senate seat — the attorney general was fine with mask mandates and hardly said a word about it. Schmitt has been on both sides of the mask mandate issue: His office filed lawsuits against mask mandates in both school districts
and St. Louis County
earlier this year.
But, the attorney general's office recently represented the state in court over the Cole County lawsuit that was filed in 2020 by a St. Louis County restaurant owner. The lawsuit argued regulations issued by state health officials unconstitutionally authorized local medical directors to direct businesses closures or quarantines. Last week, Judge Daniel Green ruled in favor of the owners on the matter and declared health orders “null and void,”
as well as stripping health departments' power to issue such orders.
“Missouri’s local health authorities have grown accustomed to issuing edicts and coercing compliance," Green's ruling read. "It is far past time for this unconstitutional conduct to stop."
Schmitt’s office said they will not appeal the ruling and a spokesperson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
that they “are prepared to enforce compliance with the court’s order across the state.” Page said this was another dangerous ruling against the county’s “strong COVID measures.” He is hopeful the court system can sort the judge’s order out, but until then, Page says they’ll tackle the matter like they have with others. St. Louis County’s lawyers are working through the issue, with the county executive saying today that the order is not good for the county and undermines all the protections issued, from Hepatitis A in restaurants to people with tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases.
It’s up to the county council to decide the fate of mask mandates, something Page says he’s confident in them continuing after speaking with several council members, including Chairwoman Rita Heard Days, over the weekend.
The county council has been at odds with mask mandates in the past, with Days and councilwoman Shalonda Webb, D-4th District, taking issue with how mask mandates were implemented without council approval
Page emphasized that wearing masks and getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to protect yourself against the virus.
He quoted Robert Frost in his conference, saying “The only way out is through.”
Follow Jenna on Twitter at @writesjenna. Email the author at [email protected]
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