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Judge issues restraining order blocking St. Louis County mask mandate

St. Louis County is prohibited from enforcing a mask mandate after a judge’s order issued Tuesday afternoon.

After hearing arguments earlier in the day, St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Ellen Ribaudo issued a temporary restraining order blocking the mask mandate from being implemented.

The restraining order, which was requested by Attorney General Eric Schmitt, expires on Aug. 17, with the judge acknowledging in the order that the county was unlikely to prevail.

The county issued its mandate on July 26. Schmitt sued the same day to block it, followed by a vote the following day by the St. Louis County Council to terminate the mask requirement.

St. Louis city issued a statement through spokesman Nick Dunne, who said: “Missourians have sadly become accustomed to the Attorney General using their tax dollars to further his own political ambitions at the expense of the public’s health and well being. We look forward to this frivolous lawsuit failing like so many of his others.”

County Executive Sam Page argued that the health order still stood, despite the council’s vote, prompting Schmitt’s office to ask for a temporary restraining order.

Ribaudo wrote that based on arguments, it is likely Schmitt will prevail in arguing that state law “gives the St. Louis County Council the authority to terminate the July 26, 2021, face covering order issued by the county defendants.”

The judge wrote that COVID-19 had become a political issue and continues to be a “political flash point for many.

“The court’s ruling in no way speaks to or determines the wisdom of the St. Louis County Council vote to terminate the face covering order,” Ribaudo wrote.

Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate, celebrated the judge’s order.

“This is an important, hard-fought victory,” he said in a statement, but our fight against unreasonable and unconstitutional government overreach continues.”

The Attorney General announced he was filing a lawsuit seeking to halt a mask mandate in Kansas City later Tuesday afternoon.

Page responded to the ruling via Twitter, saying “more mask requirements are put in place across the country to help slow this deadly virus. The CDC recommends wearing masks in public places and we ask everyone to follow that guidance as we continue our vaccine efforts.”

Tuesday morning, the state Department of Health and Senior Services reported that COVID-19 hospitalizations topped 2,000 for the first time since January. The state reported 2,690 infections, with a seven-day average of reported cases rising to 2,682 — up 9 percent from a week ago and 211 percent from a month ago.

This article by Jason Hancock is published by permission of The Missouri Independent. staff contributed to this report.

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