JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Schools and health departments across Missouri are being told to stop enforcing measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, including mask mandates and quarantine orders.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent letters Tuesday morning with details about last month’s ruling from a Cole County judge. Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled local health orders in Missouri are illegal and should be lifted. He said the orders violate the Missouri Constitution’s separation of powers clause affecting the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
Green ordered all existing health orders issued by local health officials are “null and void.”
Schmitt said his letter to health departments and schools demands they “rescind and cease enforcement and publicizing of public health orders, mask mandates, quarantine orders, or other orders that were declared null and void by the recent decision.”
The state attorney general said he plans to enforce the order across the state.
“Failure to follow the court’s judgment may result in enforcement action against you to remove orders the court has determined are unconstitutional and illegal,” Schmitt wrote.
With health department orders being dropped, Schmitt also told school officials that state law doesn’t allow them to issue their own mask mandates, quarantine orders or other public health initiatives.
“Your school district should stop enforcing and publicizing any such orders immediately,” he wrote in his letter.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson agreed that parents should be the ultimate decision-makers in the school setting. Hear his comments in the clip from Tuesday afternoon below.
On Monday, the City of St. Louis Department of Health reminded residents its mask mandate is still in effect. It was voted on and put into place the day after the judge’s Nov. 23 ruling. It’s filed under Health Commissioner’s Order #5 and was adopted by the Board of Aldermen as Resolution #142.
“The City is utilizing distinct local authority, in accordance and consistent with the requirements of State statute, for the continuing implementation of its Mask Mandate,” the health department wrote in the release.
The St. Louis County Council did not vote on a mask mandate Tuesday night after questions over how the legislation was filed.
Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, a Democrat, filed legislation calling for a vote on a countywide mask mandate, but Councilwoman Tim Fitch, a Republican, filed opposition saying the legislation did not go through the normal legislative process. Fitch's order of opposition was sustained, and the council ultimately did not vote on a mask mandate.
Fitch said the council “won’t take it up again unless Fifth District Councilwoman Lisa Clancy or Second District Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway resubmit it next week or in the future.”
In a letter to parents, Interim Rockwood Superintendent Tim Ricker said they would not be changing the district's mask rules.
"Our attorneys continue to advise us that we have legal authority to establish rules and regulations regarding the safety of our students and staff," the letter said.
The full letter is as follows:
Dear Rockwood Parents and Guardians,
As you may have already heard, the Missouri Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, has sent a letter to all Missouri public school districts advising that they do not have the authority to issue mask mandates, quarantine orders or other public health orders and that they should stop enforcement immediately as a result of the Cole County court ruling issued Nov. 22.
Our attorneys continue to advise us that we have legal authority to establish rules and regulations regarding the safety of our students and staff. Therefore, at this time, there will be no change to our mitigation strategies that have served us well since the onset of the pandemic almost two years ago. Having said that, district leaders had already been consulting with health advisors, legal advisors, other area school leaders and the Board of Education over the past several weeks to consider possible adjustments to our mitigation strategies for the second semester.
Once our attorneys have provided us with their full analysis of the Attorney General’s opinion, we will follow up with the Board of Education and our health advisors to discuss any necessary changes to our current mitigation strategies, as well as the plan we are developing for the second semester, which we will be sharing with families early next week.
We will certainly keep you updated should there be any immediate changes to our strategies and procedures. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate and consider this new development while continuing to focus on our goal of keeping students and staff safe, healthy and in school.
Tim Ricker, Ed.D.