ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has announced the county's mask requirement will end next week.
The county's department of public health will instead have an advisory that encourages masks. The change will be effective at 8 a.m. Monday, Feb. 28.
Due to the mask mandate, vaccines and the virus weakening, Page said: "We're in a much better place today. A place where we are cautiously optimistic. A place where we can move from a mask requirement to a mask recommendation."
Page previously said that he was hopeful to end the mandate by the end of February, but first he'd like to see certain metrics, such as COVID-19 rates and hospitalizations, decrease enough to bring the county down into the CDC's moderate transmission threshold. While the county's positivity rate hasn't quite dropped under the 8% threshold, Page said it was trending in the right direction.
"We're confident that we're on that timeline and that we'll be very, very close to that number Monday, within a day or two," Page said, adding he wanted to announce the mandate's end ahead of time to give schools and businesses time to decide how to move forward.
Businesses and other institutions may choose to enact their own mask rules, Page said.
You can watch Wednesday's full briefing here:
The mandate was debated Tuesday night at the St. Louis County Council meeting, with an order to end the mandate voted down along party lines. Councilman Ernie Trakas, a Republican, filed the request for the order to end the requirement.
You can watch the council meeting by clicking here.
The City of St. Louis still has a mandate in place. When asked about coordination between city and county, Page said, "It's my understanding that they'll follow us closely."
The mask requirement was put in place on Jan. 5 after a 4-3 vote by the county council. The mandate required people over the age of 5 to wear a mask "while in indoor and enclosed public buildings and spaces and public transportation" in St. Louis County.
At the time the mandate was put in place, St. Louis County was reporting record-breaking numbers of new COVID-19 cases and positivity rate due to the omicron variant. In the weeks since then, the positivity rate and the number of new cases have returned to pre-omicron levels.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who's also a Republican candidate to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Roy Blunt, filed a lawsuit calling the mandate "illegal" days after it was passed.
A St. Louis County judge denied a temporary restraining order that would have halted the mandate. The lawsuit was still working its way through the court as of Tuesday.