September 23, 2021

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Politicians lead backlash to renewed mask mandate in St. Louis and St. Louis County –

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Jones and Page wearing masks.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones (left) and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page (Post-Dispatch file photos)

ST. LOUIS COUNTY — Political opposition to a new mask mandate in St. Louis and St. Louis County appears to be building, with several state and local politicians vowing to stop the public health orders set to go into effect on Monday.

The new orders — a response to the resurgence of deadly COVID-19 cases and pleas from area hospital officials — will require most people, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to wear masks in indoor spaces and on public transportation. People in the city and county also will be urged, but not required, to wear masks outdoors, especially in group settings.  

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Wildwood Mayor Jim Bowlin, and St. Louis County Councilmen Tim Fitch, R-3rd District, and Mark Harder, R-7th District, are among politicians voicing opposition to the new orders. 

Fitch said he wants County Executive Sam Page’s administration to explain the reasoning for the proposed mandate, and said he is prepared to ask the council to rescind the public health order.

“The Council can act as soon as Tuesday to terminate the County Executive’s new health mandate,” Fitch said on Twitter on Friday. “He still has not communicated to us his reasons for the mandate, as required in the new statute.”

Harder also signaled support on Saturday for council action.

“Many bipartisan state representatives and senators in the region feel the same way. That is why they passed House Bill 271 to give councils like ours the ability to push back on these health orders,” Harder said in an email to the Post-Dispatch. HB 271, which was signed last month by Gov. Mike Parson, limits the time frame local health orders can be in effect without approval from local elected officials.

Schmitt, who is running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, announced Friday he plans to file a lawsuit on Monday to block the city and county from enforcing the renewed mandate.

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He implied that the mandate is a violation of his freedoms, and encouraged people to fight against it.

If the last six months have taught us anything it’s that when it comes to expansive, authoritative executive action we have to fight back with everything we’ve got — all the time,” he said on Twitter on Saturday. “Wherever we see it — fight the fight. Our freedoms are on the line.

Bowlin, the Wildwood mayor, also pledged to stop the mandate, saying he would use his own executive action to prevent enforcement of the mandate in the large west St. Louis County suburb. His executive action will also allow business and other gathering places to use parking lots and other adjacent spaces to do business in order to accommodate people without masks outside, he said on Facebook.

While some politicians are saying they’ll fight the mask order, at least one of the region’s biggest employers intends to comply. Schnucks said Friday it will require staff and customers to wear masks at all 45 of its stores in St. Louis and St. Louis County; the 65 Schnucks stores in other counties are not affected.

St. Louis is among the first regions in the country to bring back a mask mandate, following Los Angeles which reinstated its mandate on July 19. Page and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones will hold a press conference Monday to provide details about the order.

Local officials have cited a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the St. Louis region, driven in part by the fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus.

Missouri on Saturday recorded 2,906 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and eight deaths.

Updated at 2:35 p.m.

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