Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed suit to stop the reimposition of a mask mandate in St. Louis County and St. Louis City. The suit, which was filed in circuit court in St. Louis County, names St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, and the respective directors of the county and city’s health departments.
“My office filed suit against St. Louis City and County for reimposing their mask mandate on the citizens of St. Louis. This continued government overreach is unacceptable and unconstitutional, especially in the face of a widely available vaccine. There is absolutely no scientific reason to continue to force children to wear a mask in school,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Back in May, I filed suit against St. Louis County for continuing to impose such unlawful restrictions, and just three days later, those restrictions were lifted. I will continue to fight this seemingly unending control and intrusion on peoples’ lives – we will not back down.”
The lawsuit argues that reimposing the mask mandate is unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious, unconstitutional, and unlawful.
The lawsuit begins with, “St. Louis County and St. Louis City seek expanded government power that has failed to protect Missouri citizens living within their boundaries in the past and is not based on sound facts and data.”
The lawsuit argues that mandating children to wear masks in school is arbitrary and capricious given that children are at low risk to contract or spread COVID-19, have low mortality rates, and less severe symptoms when they do contract COVID, and that wearing a mask in school may harm children. According to research noted in the lawsuit, masks may inhibit verbal and non-verbal communication, hampering linguistic and emotional development.
Additionally, the lawsuit notes that St. Louis City and County had some of the most restrictive orders in Missouri and yet still suffered some of the highest COVID-19 case and death rates and that a renewed mask mandate undermines the important push for vaccinations.
Moreover, the lawsuit states that neither St. Louis City nor County cited the statutory authority that would allow them to issue wide-ranging health orders, that both orders are unconstitutionally vague, and that both orders restrict the religious freedom of St. Louisans.
The lawsuit also argues that both the City and County’s mask mandates are subject to the law recently passed by the Missouri legislature (House Bill 271), that places restrictions on local health orders. The suit states, “both Mask Mandates are subject to § 67.265.1(1), RSMo, and expire after thirty days absent authorization by a majority vote of St. Louis County’s or St. Louis City’s governing body.” Additionally, the lawsuit notes that, according to § 67.265.4, RSMo, “the health officer, local public health agency, public health authority, or executive shall provide a report to the governing body containing information supporting the need for such order.” The defendants never provided that report.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office previously filed suit against the St. Louis County Executive over COVID-19 restrictions on May 11, 2021. St. Louis County lifted nearly all of their restrictions roughly three days after that lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit asks the court for injunctive relief to invalidate the mask mandate and for a declaration that the mask mandates are subject to the law passed by the legislature in May (see § 67.265, RSMo).
The lawsuit, filed by the Attorney General, can be found at this link.