Wildwood, Eureka and Chesterfield officials will not enforce the mask mandate going into effect in St. Louis County come Monday.
ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — A mandate that everyone wear a mask in public places in St. Louis City and County is back.
Effective Monday, everyone 5 and older in St. Louis City and County must wear a mask in indoor public places and on public transportation regardless of vaccination status. Officials are also urging people to wear masks outside if they are in a group. Those who are seated in a restaurant or bar eating and drinking, and those who have disabilities that prevent them from wearing masks are exempt from the mandate.
“At the urging of local health experts with the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force, County Executive Dr. Sam Page and I took action by instating a mask mandate to stop the spread of COVID-19,” St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said in a briefing Monday. “As of yesterday, the CDC is considering doing the same.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said he will be filing a lawsuit in an effort to stop the upcoming mask mandate for St. Louis City and County.
The announcement comes as the Delta variant spreads in the St. Louis region. St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page said Monday the variant has “thrown us a curveball” and is highly transmissible. He said masks will make it possible for students to get back in school, businesses to remain open and for more people to get vaccinated.
The uptick in COVID-19 cases has St. Louis seeing the most hospitalizations since February. Data provided by the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force Friday showed 318 people in St. Louis hospitals with COVID-19. That’s the highest number since early February. While COVID is straining hospitals in Southwest Missouri, local officials say nearly all of the patients in St. Louis hospitals are local cases. More than 90 percent of them are not vaccinated.
“You can still spread COVID-19 even if you are vaccinated. You can still get sick,” Mayor Jones said. She then explained that while vaccinated individuals can still catch the coronavirus, the risk of ending up in the ICU is “greatly reduced,” which helps to free up hospital beds. Jones said she lost her only remaining uncle to COVID-19 in November.
“These masks save lives,” County Executive Dr. Sam Page said. “They’ve prevented thousands of people from getting sick and dying, and when the Mayor and I stood here in May and announced that our health departments would be relaxing some of the public health orders and protocols, including wearing masks, we did so because the case rate was headed in the right direction and vaccine access was improving.”
Page said all the decisions regarding the public health protocols will be based on experts. The mandate will be enforced on a case-by-case basis. He stressed the biggest push would continue to be for residents to get vaccinated.
Steve Edwards, the president and CEO of a health care system in Missouri, is troubled that health experts cannot seem to inspire more people to get vaccinated in his area, which is being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In their joint press conference Monday morning, Page and Jones both spoke about the backlash from other leaders regarding the mandate.
“We see right wing politicians try to tell us what’s best for St. Louis, teeing off against our city to score political points,” said Jones. “Our Attorney General, who is running for Senate and has a history of filing failed lawsuits, what’s to file another frivolous lawsuit to serve his own interest and at the expense of public health. It’s easy to grandstand when your biggest concern is filming your next campaign commercial and chasing clout.”
“Creating distractions for political gain is short sighted at best and life-threatening at worse. As some passionate supporters of the previous president hold on tight to bombast and misinformation, we are laser focused on protecting the health and welfare of people in our communities,” Page said.
After Page and Jones concluded their press conference, St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch took the podium.
This weekend will be your last weekend without a mask in St. Louis City and County, as a spike in new COVID-19 cases brings back a mask mandate.
He said the debate on the council is not about wearing masks, but whether it is legal for a mandate to be issued.
“That law that he [Page] is relying on in the past changed on June the 15th when the Governor and the General Assembly passed into law the ability of the local governing body to approve recommendations from the public health director,” he said. “He has not come to us, the council, and asked us for any input whatsoever. You heard him say, and the mayor say, this is about politics, this is about right-wing politics.”
Fitch said he was not going to use politics in the issue, but he said the council should have been addressed before the mandate was announced. He also urged people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Get vaccinated,” he said. “I can’t say it any clearer than that. That is our way out of this. Get vaccinated.”
In a series of tweets, Governor Mike Parson addressed the mandate. He wrote, “Dictating mask mandates when we have the vaccine is ignoring the real solution and eroding public trust. From the very beginning of this pandemic, we have recognized the importance of local control; however, re-imposing mask mandates regardless of vaccination status is WRONG and goes against current CDC guidelines. These policies that don’t consider vaccination status reduce the incentive of getting the vaccine and undermine its integrity. The vaccine is how we rid ourselves of COVID-19, not mask mandates that ignore common sense.”
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