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Some question legality, enforcement of new St. Louis County mask mandate

Sam Page said the new health order was signed Monday morning and goes into effect immediately. He also said the County Council doesn’t plan to oppose the mandate.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — St. Louis County's acting health director Dr. Faisal Khan has issued a new public health order on masks.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced the latest mask mandate at a press conference on Monday.

Page said the new health order was signed Monday morning and goes into effect immediately. He also said the County Council doesn’t plan to oppose the mandate.

RELATED: New mask mandate in effect immediately in St. Louis County

But others are questioning the legality of the new order and how it will be enforced as the previous mask mandate continues to work its way through the legal system.

In a tweet, Republican County Councilman Tim Fitch said not to give the mandate any credibility. He opposed the July mandate, which was opposed by a majority of the county council and prevented from taking effect by a temporary injunction.

“Page even knows, I think, this time that it’s not going to be a winner in court," Fitch said in an interview, "but he doesn’t care, because he’s got county constituent money to fight it in court and he can still look like a hero to his constituents and say, ‘Look, I tried to get a mask mandate for the county. It failed, the courts turned me down, but I tried.’”

Last Monday, that same judge kept in place a temporary injunction against enforcement of St. Louis County's mask mandate, after the administration of County Executive Sam Page argued it should be dissolved and a lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt dismissed.

St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Nellie Ribaudo decided that although the County Council last month voiced support for a mask mandate from Page dating to July 26, passing a resolution that purported to extend it, that mandate had already expired due to a new state law that limited the length of public health orders.

When asked why he thinks this order will stand, as compared to the others that have been challenged, Page said this mandate follows the guidance of the legal team and the judge's orders.

"The judge has indicated to us that a new mask order is the best way to manage this question," Page said. "We believe issuing a new order is following the guidance of the court."

Page also said the pushback has stymied the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“The pushback against masks has slowed our progress in slowing this virus," he said Monday. "The confusion caused by misinformation about masks and vaccines is dangerous. Grandstanding and legal action at the state level have endangered residents.”

The City of St. Louis announced a mask mandate alongside St. Louis County in July, and that mandate remains in place. The primary difference between the two mandates was the St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted in support of the mandate and its recent extension while the St. Louis County mandate was initially opposed by the county council.

The City of St. Louis will hold another meeting this Friday where they plan to vote on extending the mask order for another 30 days.

RELATED: City of St. Louis extends mask order

Mayor of Eureka Sean Flower, who has opposed previous county orders on masks and distancing, said the city will do the same with the new mask requirements.

The City of Chesterfield, which said it would not comply with the July mask mandate, said it will comply with Monday's order, but the city manager said they have no authority to enforce the mandate.

"As we have repeatedly stated, there is no enforcement mechanism and we as a municipality, lack any statutory authority to enforce said order," City Administrator Mike Geisel said in a statement. "It is not a political decision, we have no legal authority to enforce the County health order."

The mandate does not provide information on the enforcement of the mandate. When asked about possible enforcement, a statement from the St. Louis County Police Department said its officers would not be arresting people who don't wear masks. 

The Clayton Police Department said enforcement is up to the health department, but they would assist businesses seeking to enforce it. A statement from Clayton police said if someone refuses to comply with the business's rules and refuses to leave, the person would be trespassing. The department would then enforce the trespassing ordinance.

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