The city of St. Louis and St. Louis County on Monday required everyone age 5 and older to wear a mask within public indoor spaces as part of an effort to thwart the fast-moving coronavirus.
Missouri’s attorney general swiftly vowed to challenge the rule, which reflects fears about the delta variant that is highly contagious and spurring hospitalizations in pockets of the country with low vaccination rates.
The mandate applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status, with exceptions for eating and drinking and people with disabilities who cannot wear one safely.
“We’ve lost more than 500 St. Louisans to COVID-19, and if our region doesn’t work together to protect one another, we could see spikes that overwhelm our hospital and public health systems,” said Dr. Fredrick Echols, acting director of health for the City of St. Louis.
Roughly 41% of Missouri’s population is fully vaccinated, below the national rate of 49%.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises unvaccinated persons to wear masks in public but says vaccinated persons don’t have to in most instances.
Even so, parts of the country are reimposing mask rules because they’re worried about the delta variant. Los Angeles County and other parts of California reimposed a mask mandate, but New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is holding out and emphasizing vaccinations instead.
Some public health experts say the added layer of protection is prudent, especially to protect children who aren’t eligible for the shots yet.
Yet the measures are producing blowback from people who say the rule doesn’t comport with CDC guidance or have much scientific justification.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, said he will take legal action against St. Louis.
“The citizens of St. Louis and St. Louis County are not subjects — they are free people,” Mr. Schmitt tweeted. “As their Attorney General I’ll be filing suit Monday to stop this insanity.”