St. Louis County ordered to stop enforcing mask mandate

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A St. Louis Circuit Court judge says St. Louis County can not enforce its July 26 mask mandate. The judge’s ruling comes after attorneys for the county and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office failed to reach a compromise on the issue.

Judge Nellie Ribaudo issued a preliminary injunction against St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, Health Director Faisal Kahn, and the St. Louis County Public Health Department, ordering them from taking any and all action to enforce the mask mandate.

The judge’s order came in the afternoon after a morning court hearing that lasted about a minute and a half, where lawyers argued over the validity of the mask mandate. They said they couldn’t reach a compromise.

The judge said she was very disappointed but not terribly surprised and said she would issue an order. In her ruling, Judge Ribaudo said her decision is based on law, not politics.

“The court implored for the parties to work together for the benefit of the public to find common ground as this virus continues to be a very real and significant danger,” she said.

The state’s suit against mask mandates now moves to a St. Louis City court.

The judge’s ruling also says a copy of the preliminary injunction order must be posted in all places the mask mandate order was posted.

“The people prevailed yet again against County Executive Page and his health department for attempting to impose their will illegally on the people of St. Louis County,” said Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

Schmitt also said he will not stop his fight against government overreach.

“I do not want to live in some futuristic dystopian biomedical security state and I’m going to do everything I can to fight against that. People can make their own decisions,” he said. “There’s a lot of more information out there right now. I don’t think we should have mask mandates. I think the idea of masking up kids five years old, all day long, there’s significant health risks with that. Longer-term for kids, there’s psychological and emotional.”

On Wednesday, Judge Ribaudo told the attorneys for the Missouri Attorney General and St. Louis County keep trying after they failed to reach a compromise.

The legal battle comes after the attorney general’s office filed a suit contesting St. Louis County’s mask mandate.

Previously, the court issued a temporary restraining order against St. Louis County for continuing to implement a mask mandate despite the county council voting the measure down

“Today the court ruled that enforcement of the mask order is suspended while the court considers the full case. Public health experts tell us masks save lives,” Dr. Sam Page wrote on Twitter after the ruling.

Page said he’s confident the people of St. Louis County will continue wearing masks to protect themselves and their community from COVID-19 despite the judge’s ruling. It’s unclear if the county will continue a legal fight for a mask mandate.

During Wednesday’s hearing, St. Louis County’s attorney told the judge the county had offered a compromise. It was willing to publish a memo stating the mask policy would not be enforced unless there was an extraordinary case. Many critics of the mandate contend the order had no real enforcement mechanism in place.

The attorney representing the state told the judge the state would accept a mask recommendation but not a continuation of what he called an “unlawful” order.

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