The most populous county in Missouri on Thursday rescinded its mask mandate, citing a recent court ruling.
Dr. Faisal Khan, the acting health director for St. Louis County, said in a letter that the mandate is no longer in place, effective immediately. That came after the St. Louis County Council this week opted not to renew the mandate, which it has to do every 30 days, according to state law. It also came after a Missouri judge ruled local COVID-19 orders were illegal and ordered local health officials to rescind them.
“Because of the Cole County order and the council’s decision not to approve a new face covering order, the Dept. of Public Health director this morning rescinded the prior face covering order. The Health Dept. continues to recommend masks in indoor settings. COVID cases are rising,” Sam Page, the executive of the county and a Democrat, said in a statement.
The mandate forced everybody 5 or older to wear masks in indoor public places and on public transportation.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, announced last month that he would not challenge the November ruling that deemed such mandates as violative of the state Constitution.
The ending of the mask mandate “is a huge win for the people of St. Louis County,” Schmitt said on Thursday. “Although we have consistently held that St. Louis County’s mask mandates were illegally imposed in the first place, this is the right move and is consistent with the recent judgment.”
Schmitt said he expects other jurisdictions to follow suit.
A mask mandate in the city of St. Louis is still in effect, the city’s health department said.
The city said in a statement that it was aware of the recent ruling but said “the ramifications and ultimate disposition” of the case “is still being determined.”
In the meantime, the city “is utilizing distinct local authority, in accordance and consistent with the requirements of state statute” to keep in place its mask mandate.
Mask mandates have proven divisive during the pandemic. Little concrete data supports such mandates, some experts say; others say wearing masks can help decrease the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.
St. Louis County has a COVID-19 case rate of 215.5 cases per 100,000 people, a rate that meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention definition of high community transmission of the virus. It wasn’t clear how many people were hospitalized with the disease.