FILE - Virus Outbreak Vaccine Mandate

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt speaks during a news conference in St. Louis on Aug. 6, 2020.

(The Center Square) – The day after the St. Louis County Council voted 4-3 along party lines to enact a mask mandate, Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit to stop it.

Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, filed a 17-page petition in St. Louis County Circuit Court on Wednesday. Last week, St. Louis and Jackson Counties filed an appeal with the Missouri Court of Appeals over the November ruling by a Cole County Circuit Court stating all COVID-19 public health orders were null and void.

“Citizens of St. Louis County should have the freedom to choose what is best for them and their families – the government has no authority to force them to wear a mask or get vaccinated,” Schmitt said in a statement announcing the action.

Schmitt sites a new law passed by the Missouri legislature in 2021 limiting the length of “restrictions on the opening of or access to any one or more business organizations, churches, schools, or other places of public or private gathering or assembly, including any order, ordinance, rule or regulation…” during an emergency declared by the governor.

Gov. Mike Parson let all emergency orders expire on Dec. 31, 2021. The new law also requires a two-thirds majority vote by the political subdivision’s legislative body to institute more than one public health order – lasting 21 days or less – in a 180-day period.

Schmitt’s news release quoted unnamed “public health professionals” as stating it’s “time to ‘retire the cloth mask,’ including some who have said, ‘Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There’s no place for them in light of omicron.'”

Dr. Alex Garza, one of the leaders of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, on Tuesday said masks are an effective element of a COVID-19 mitigation strategy, especially in schools. The Task Force on Tuesday reported an all-time pandemic high of 1,114 COVID patients hospitalized in St. Louis metropolitan health centers.

Staff Reporter

Joe Mueller covers Missouri for The Center Square. After seven years of reporting for daily newspapers in Illinois and Missouri, he spent the next 30 years in public relations serving non-profit organizations and as a strategic communications consultant.