Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a tweet that he intends to file a lawsuit to “stop this insanity”
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, both Democrats, announced the new mandate Friday, saying it would take effect on Monday.
The joint announcement came as the fast-spreading delta variant is helping fuel an increase in COVID-19 cases in the area and the state. Missouri health department officials have issued six virus “hotspot” warnings, with the latest one forecasting the spread to continue from southwest and central Missouri up toward the St. Louis area.
5 On Your Side has reached out to the mayor’s office and the county executive’s office for comment. As of this writing, neither office has responded.
This is not the first time Schmitt has sued over coronavirus-related restrictions in St. Louis County. In May, he filed a lawsuit against Page, St. Louis County Health Director Dr. Faisal Khan and the St. Louis County Department of Public Health over what he called the “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable application of COVID-19 restrictions in St. Louis County.” The suit specifically mentioned restrictions on religious institutions, masking requirements for K-12 grades, government pre-approval for events and outdoor mask requirements.
Schmitt’s legal action essentially became moot after the county on May 14 lifted health orders requiring masks and social distancing in public in keeping with new federal guidelines that had been released earlier that week. The county had lifted occupancy restrictions for businesses May 3.
County officials accused Schmitt of using the May lawsuit to “increase his profile statewide.” Schmitt is running to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Roy Blunt, who is retiring after his term.
Health orders in St. Louis County were upheld after multiple legal challenges last year, but state legislators passed a new bill limiting the power of local leaders when it comes to health restrictions.
According to a release, House Bill 271 says “political subdivisions may only issue public health orders that directly or indirectly restrict access to businesses, churches, schools or other places of assembly for 30 calendar days in a 180-day period when the governor has declared a state of emergency.”
The bill says those orders can be extended more than once with a majority vote by the local governing body.