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St. Louis mask mandate remains in effect

The city's mask mandate was adopted on Nov. 24, the day after a judge in Missouri ruled local health orders tied to COVID-19 are illegal.

ST. LOUIS — While confusions over mask mandates continue after a recent ruling in Missouri, the City of St. Louis is trying to make one thing clear: a mask requirement is still in effect.

The city health department sent out a news release Monday morning reminding residents, businesses and visitors about the mask requirement.

“It’s critical that we continue to rely on the proven successful virus mitigation strategy of properly wearing masks,” said St. Louis Health Director Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis.

On Nov. 23, a Missouri judge ruled local health orders imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state are illegal and should be lifted. Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled orders such as quarantines and business closures violate the Missouri Constitution's separation of powers clause affecting the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

The City of St. Louis mask mandate was adopted on Nov. 24, the day after the judge’s ruling. It’s filed under Health Commissioner’s Order #5 and was adopted by the Board of Aldermen as Resolution #142.

“The City is utilizing distinct local authority, in accordance and consistent with the requirements of State statute, for the continuing implementation of its Mask Mandate,” the health department wrote in the release. “The goal is to ensure the maximum number of individuals take prudent precaution to reduce the exposure to and slow the spread of SARS CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.”

The city’s mask mandate is set to expire after 30 days, which would be Christmas Eve. If city leaders want the requirement to continue, they’ll need to make a decision before the Board of Alderman goes on a holiday break on Dec. 17.

In St. Louis County – where face covering requirements have been the topic of lawsuits, court hearings and a whole lot of confusion – the County Council is expected to vote on a new mask mandate during Tuesday’s meeting.

Mask mandate analysis

A Missouri health department analysis first reported by The Missouri Independent and the Documenting COVID-19 project last week found Missouri cities that require masks to combat the coronavirus pandemic this year saw fewer infections and deaths.

Gov. Mike Parson's office asked the health department for information on the impact of mask mandates on infections, according to emails obtained in the open-records request.

“There are ‘lots’ of variables that must be considered before we can definitively assess the impact of wearing a mask (or not wearing a mask) in Missouri before and during the primary Delta period,” Department of Health and Senior Services Director Donald Kauerauf said in a November email.

“However, I think we can say with great confidence reviewing the public health literature and then looking at the results in your study that communities where masks were required had a lower positivity rate per 100,000 and experienced lower death rates.”

Parson on Thursday responded to The Missouri Independent's report with a scathing 12-part Twitter thread attacking the reporter. Parson described the article as “purposefully misleading” and said it left out important context.

Parson's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Friday seeking more information on what his office found misleading about the Independent's report and what context was not included.

In a tweet, Parson said the data does “not account for any outside variables, such as health care access, testing rates, and especially vaccination rates for each location.”

It's unclear what prompted the Governor's Office to request the analysis and whether there was any discussion of releasing the information publicly.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.