A mask mandate in a Missouri county is to be repealed after its council voted to scrap new face covering rules the day after they came into force.
The mandate, put in place by St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, required people over the age of five to wear face coverings in indoor public settings and on public transport in St. Louis city and county.
Page explained the mandate at a press conference on Monday, saying: “For those who are vaccinated this may feel like punishment, punishment for doing the right thing.
“I’ve heard that and I feel that frustration. While the vaccination can protect against serious illness, it can’t protect you from being infected with COVID-19 and passing it onto someone else, someone who may be more vulnerable.”
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the mask mandate and several members of the county council came out against the measure. The opposition on the council was led by Councilman Tim Fitch, a Republican.
Before the meeting on Tuesday evening, Fitch told Missouri’s News 4: “Why weren’t we brought into the loop, why didn’t we have a chance to have input on this? I represent 142,000 people, the vast majority do not want masks. The vast majority. I represent them and I should be able to have a voice for them.”
Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, a Democrat, told News 4 that a legal opinion had said the mask mandate was on firm ground and called for politics to be taken out of the decision.
“I wish we would take the politics out of this and center our community members, especially those who can’t get vaccinated,” Clancy said before the meeting.
“I’m sitting here next to my seven-week-old baby and I have a five-year-old too, and children in my community that are especially at risk right now, and we really all need to be considering that.”
Speaking after the vote, Page did not address the matter directly but he did urge the wearing of masks, according to CNN.
“Wearing a mask is easy to do, and it will have a big impact,” Page said. “I wish more people were vaccinated, but that’s not where we are right now.”
A spokesperson for Page told News 4 the county executive would respond to the decision in a press conference to be delivered on Wednesday.
Newsweek has asked Page for further comment.
The mandate still applies to the city of St. Louis, while the state of Missouri now ranks fourth in the nation in terms of the most new COVID-19 cases per capita, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The vote to overturn the mandate comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend fully vaccinated people wear masks in indoor settings in areas where vaccination rates are low. Around 41 percent of Missouri residents are fully vaccinated.