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Judge keeps temporary injunction against St. Louis County's mask mandate; new order could be proposed Tuesday

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt had filed a lawsuit in July to stop the mandate. The county health director could ask for a new mask mandate order Tuesday
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2020 file photo, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks during a news conference in St. Louis. Schmitt announced Wednesday, March 24, 2021, that he's making a bid for retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt's seat. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A state-court judge on Monday 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.

Schmitt, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Roy Blunt, had filed suit July 26 to stop the mandate. A day later, the St. Louis County Council voted to terminate it, while Page continued to assert that it was in effect. Ribaudo then issued a preliminary injunction preventing the mandate's enforcement.

"It is unclear to the court why the Council would opt to extend an order they had previously voted to terminate or that expired by operation of law pursuant to Section 67.265 RSMO rather than issue a new order especially in light of this argument made by the Defendants," Ribaudo wrote in her order Monday.

She ordered that the council's August resolution be published by the county, but rejected moves by the county government to dissolve the temporary injunction and dismiss Schmitt's lawsuit.

A hearing on whether to grant a permanent injunction against the mandate is set for Oct. 18.

Schmitt praised Monday's ruling.

The county mask debate could see renewed discussion Tuesday night as well. Acting health department director Dr. Faisal Khan shared a letter with council members requesting to talk about a new mandate at Tuesday's scheduled meeting.

"Representatives from DPH would like to present the reasons why face coverings are still effective and necessary for our current case transmission and to seek the support of the Council to authorize an appropriate public health order," the letter from Khan states.

The health department said rising numbers boosted by the delta variant are leading to more hospitalizations.

"The most important mitigation measure, the wearing of face coverings indoors, is critical as we head into the cooler season where more residents will be spending time indoors and as we continue to encourage St. Louis County residents to vaccinate," Khan wrote.

Schmitt promised to fight any new mask mandates in the county.

"As long as I'm attorney general we're going to fight back on this stuff," he said during a news conference Tuesday.

Click here for the full story from the St. Louis Business Journal.