The city of St. Louis and St. Louis County reinstated an indoor mask mandate on Monday to try to stop the spread of Covid-19, even as Missouri’s attorney general followed through on a threat to sue over the requirement.
Beginning Monday, St. Louis required those ages 5 and older to wear masks in indoor public spaces and on public transportation.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the mandate on the day it went into effect.
The mandate, intended to cut down on further spread of the virus, applies to vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Exceptions would include people who are seated in a restaurant or bar eating and drinking and individuals with disabilities that prevent them from putting on or removing face coverings, according to a news release.
At a press conference, Mayor Tishaura Jones said the city is still at a “dangerous point” with the virus, facing infection numbers not seen since December.
Missouri and its neighbor, Arkansas, have had some of the highest infection and hospitalization rates of the past few weeks amid a recent surge that has particularly hit unvaccinated communities.
About 41% of the Missouri’s population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. St. Louis has fully vaccinated just 35.4% of its residents, the most recent dashboard by the state shows.
The CDC has said that people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks inside or outside. Studies show that the vaccines, though not 100% effective, protect against Covid-19 infection and severe illness.
St. Louis is one of a number of cities that have reissued indoor mask mandates amid the continued spread of Covid-19 and its more transmissible Delta variant. Los Angeles County in California; Provincetown, Massachusetts; and Savannah, Georgia are among the cities that have similarly returned to mask requirements in recent days.
Schmitt, a Republican who is running for the US Senate, blasted the mask mandate as “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious, unconstitutional, and unlawful.”
“This continued government overreach is unacceptable and unconstitutional, especially in the face of a widely available vaccine,” Schmitt said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “There is absolutely no scientific reason to continue to force children to wear a mask in school,” he adds.
After Schmitt announced his intention to bring a lawsuit in a tweet over the weekend, Mayor Jones said his threat was “frivolous,” and it serves “his own interests at the expense of public health.”
“It’s easy to grandstand (when) your biggest concern is filming your next campaign commercial and chasing clout,” Jones said about Schmitt.
The highest uptick in vaccinations is in the city’s Black community, Jones said. Those same neighborhoods, she said, make up 74% of the new cases. The city is sending vaccination trucks to communities hardest hit by the virus, she said, and they are “meeting people where they are” in order to get them vaccinated.
She also said that her entire family is vaccinated, including her 13-year-old son.