By Associated Press - Friday, July 24, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A Springfield, Missouri, woman is suing the city over its decision to require face coverings, saying the health of others “is not my responsibility.”

Rachel Shelton is asking the court to temporarily stop an ordinance, and to rule that it violates her rights. The Springfield law follows a big spike in new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in southwestern Missouri and across the state.

“Your health is not my responsibility,” Shelton said at a news conference Thursday, according to the Springfield News-Leader. “Your emotional well-being is not my responsibility.”

Springfield, Missouri’s third-largest city, is among several jurisdictions in the state that have begun requiring face coverings in many public places.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen sharply since Republican Gov. Mike Parson allowed the state to reopen for business in mid-June. The state has set a daily record for new confirmed cases each of the past four days, including the 1,652 cases reported Friday. That was 15 more than the record set on Thursday.

The state also has recorded 1,178 deaths since the pandemic began. The number was revised down by one, without explanation, on Friday.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Shelton’s attorney, Kristi Fulnecky, said Springfield’s ordinance violates Shelton’s right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment and freedom of expression and religion under the First Amendment because she “does not want to be required to wear face coverings during church worship” or in businesses.

Fulnecky also said the ordinance that took effect last week is overly broad and violates due process.

The Springfield ordinance requires people older than 11 to wear a face covering at most businesses, entertainment venues, religious services and K-12 schools, with some exceptions.

Across Missouri, schools are deciding whether to hold in-person classes when students return to school. On Friday, the Kansas City school board voted to delay classes until after Labor Day, and then offer only online classes.

The district will bring back students in phases when the number of coronavirus cases declines for 14 consecutive days. If cases increase again after students return to school, the district may revert to online classes again.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, has suggested that parents opt for virtual learning.

“As this trend is going it will be very difficult for schools to have anything other than an all virtual curriculum,” Page said at a news conference Friday.

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