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Missouri attorney general quietly withdraws COVID-19 lawsuit against St. Louis County

Missouri attorney general quietly withdraws COVID-19 lawsuit against St. Louis County

Schmitt, Page

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, left, and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s short-lived lawsuit challenging St. Louis County’s pandemic response is over.

Schmitt, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, on Thursday voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit he filed May 11 challenging County Executive Sam Page’s orders designed to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The initial legal action, which was deemed largely political by county officials, appeared to become moot just days after it was filed when the county began lifting regulations that had been heavily criticized by businesses and parents of school-age children who were affected by the rules.

“We filed this lawsuit to lift the frivolous restrictions that were being imposed on St. Louis County residents. Those restrictions were lifted, undoubtedly due to our lawsuit, and the lawsuit at that point was moot, which is obviously why it was dismissed,” Schmitt spokesman Chris Nuelle said.

Page spokesman Doug Moore said decisions about a public health crisis should be based on the advice of public health experts.

“That’s what we did in St. Louis County throughout the pandemic. That’s what we will continue to do,” Moore said.

The lawsuit, which was filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court, alleged the county’s public health regulations — including mask requirements for school students and capacity restrictions on places of worship — are “unjustified burdens on religious, economic, and personal freedom,” and accused public health officials of issuing “arbitrary and capricious” emergency health protocols over the course of the pandemic without considering “less restrictive” measures.

At the time, Moore called the attorney general’s actions an attempt by Schmitt to “increase his profile statewide” as he begins a run for the Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt next year.

As the pandemic began worsening last year, Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, refused to impose a statewide mask mandate, deferring instead to local officials and residents. After Parson allowed all businesses in the state to reopen in May 2020, the county and some local governments including St. Louis and Kansas City kept restrictions in place, only relaxing orders over time based on the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and the availability of vaccines.

Although the county had restrictions in place similar to Kansas City and St. Louis, Schmitt did not sue officials there.

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