CoronavirusNewsPoliticsThe SouthSider

Anti-maskers at risk after virus case at St. Louis County meeting

(AP) — At least one of the people who were at a boisterous St. Louis County Council meeting last week at which many people spoke out against the county’s new mask requirement has COVID-19, an official said Monday, noting that contact tracers were trying to determine if other attendees were infected.

Many of those who were at last Tuesday’s meeting ignored the county’s requirement that masks be worn inside public spaces, County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, said.

A St. Louis resident who was at the meeting began showing symptoms the next day and tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials issued an advisory asking anyone who attended the meeting, including those who were fully vaccinated, to quarantine through Aug. 10.

“Yes, it’s unfortunate that many of those Tuesday night ignored the law, but that’s what happened,” Page said Monday during a live-streamed video from his home. “As a result, this is where we are, wondering how many people were exposed to the virus and how many will become sick from the virus.”

The county’s health director, Dr. Faisal Khan, was among those quarantining. He spoke at the meeting in support of the mask mandate and claimed he was assaulted and bombarded with racial slurs afterward. County Councilman Tim Fitch, a Republican, questioned whether Khan, a U.S. citizen who is originally from Pakistan, was really assaulted.

On Monday, Khan repeated his contention about being bumped after videos surfaced that did not show him making physical contact with anyone as he left, although the videos do not show the entire sequence of him leaving and do not provide audio.

“I completely stand by my assertions,” Khan said on St. Louis public radio KWMU. “One segment of one video or whatever it may be does not capture my experience that evening.”

Page’s office and the council are investigating.

“This was not St. Louis County’s finest moment,” Page said. “The community I love was thrust into the national spotlight for bad behavior, xenophobia, racism and resistance to recommendations from scientists and doctors.”

State and local public health officials across the county have reported being threatened with violence, have been fired, or have retired in the face of public hostility and criticism over masking mandates and other public health initiatives.

Page said that two months ago, St. Louis County was experiencing about 40 new COVID-19 cases per day. Now, it’s seeing 274 cases per day, and the infection rate has risen to 11.4 percent from 2.9 percent.

The new mask mandates, including one that began Monday in Kansas City, come as the fast-moving Delta variant spreads throughout the state. Kansas City’s mandate requires everyone age 5 or older to wear masks in public indoor places such as bars, restaurants, grocery stores and other places. The order will remain in effect until at least Aug. 28.

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