Education

Missouri Attorney General Sues to Stop School Mask Mandates

By The Associated Press — August 24, 2021 3 min read
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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit Tuesday that seeks to stop school districts from enforcing mask mandates, requirements aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The lawsuit names Columbia Public Schools along with the district’s Board of Education and board members, but is a class action lawsuit that “would apply to school districts across the state that have a mask mandate for schoolchildren,” said Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for Schmitt.

The new school year began Monday in several districts across the state, and with the delta variant causing a big spike in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, more than four dozen districts are requiring students, teachers, and staff to wear face coverings. The lawsuit filed by Schmitt, a Republican, cites the low death rate among school aged children.

“We filed this suit today because we fundamentally don’t believe in forced masking, rather that parents and families should have the power to make decisions on masks, based on science and facts,” Schmitt said in a news release.

Phone and email messages left with a spokeswoman for Columbia Public Schools were not immediately returned.

Schmitt successfully sued to stop St. Louis County’s mask mandate. He has also filed suits against mask requirements in St. Louis city, Kansas City, and Jackson County.

Southwestern Missouri has been the epicenter of this summer’s outbreak of COVID-19. But since the delta variant of the virus began its rampage in June, cases have spread across the state. Now, the Bootheel region of southeast Missouri is under siege.

Information on Missouri’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that at least five of the 12 counties with the highest seven-day rates of new cases are in the southeast — Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi, Madison, and Perry counties.

Cape Girardeau’s two hospitals are treating a combined 76 COVID-19 patients, including 24 in intensive care units, according to information from St. Francis Medical Center and Southeast Hospital.

School Mask Mandates at a Glance

  • Nine states have banned school districts from setting universal mask mandates. Those bans are in effect in six states. In the remaining three states, mask mandate bans have been blocked, suspended, or are not being enforced. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia require masks be worn in schools.

  • MASK MANDATE BAN IN EFFECT

    1. Florida*
    2. Oklahoma*
    3. South Carolina
    4. Tennessee*
    5. Texas*
    6. Utah*

    MASK MANDATE BAN BLOCKED, SUSPENDED, OR NOT BEING ENFORCED

    1. Arizona*
    2. Arkansas*
    3. Iowa*

    MASKS REQUIRED

    1. California
    2. Connecticut
    3. Delaware
    4. District of Columbia
    5. Hawaii
    6. Illinois
    7. Louisiana
    8. Maryland
    9. Massachusetts
    10. Nevada
    11. New Jersey
    12. New Mexico
    13. Oregon
    14. Pennsylvania
    15. Rhode Island
    16. Virginia
    17. Washington
  • *On Sept. 10, a Florida judge reinstated the state’s ban on school mask mandates.

    On Sept. 1, an Oklahoma judge temporarily blocked the state law banning school mask mandates, but students or their parents can still opt out of the requirement if they choose.

    Tennessee‘s governor has signed an executive order requiring schools to allow families to opt out of mask mandates.

    In Utah, local health departments can issue 30-day school mask mandates with approval from the state or county government, according to the state’s top education official.

    An Arizona judge ruled the state law banning mask mandates will not go into effect until Sept. 29.

    In Arkansas, a judge paused the state law that prohibits local officials from setting mask mandates, meaning school districts can—at least for now—set their own local mask requirements.

    On Sept. 13, a federal district court ordered Iowa to immediately halt enforcement of its law banning mask mandates in schools.

    Updated guidance released by the Texas Education Agency on Sept. 17 states that per the governor’s executive order, school systems “cannot require students or staff to wear a mask.”

    Updated 9/21/2021 | Sources: Local media reports | Learn more here

The death toll continues to rise with another 170 deaths reported by the state health department. Of them, 143 were the result of a weekly review of death certificates. One of those deaths was in May, two were in June, 35 were in July, and 105 were earlier in August. The state also cited 27 new deaths, and 1,770 newly confirmed cases. Missouri has reported 618,022 COVID-19 cases overall.

A central Missouri mayor meanwhile pushed for his friend to be given an anti-parasite drug not approved for treating COVID-19.

The Kansas City Star reported that Lake Ozark Mayor Dennis Newberry wrote on Facebook Monday that the friend should be allowed to take ivermectin in a last-ditch effort to save him.

“Please pray for cooperation from his caregivers and hospital admin to allow his loved ones and friends to step in and assist with his life. If we do nothing his life will surely be taken from his 18 year old son, his family and friends,” Newberry wrote.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin to treat some parasitic worms and for head lice and skin conditions in humans, and other preparations of the drug are used to treat and prevent parasites in horses. The FDA has not approved ivermectin for treating or preventing COVID-19.

By Tuesday morning, Newberry’s post had been removed. A phone message left with Newberry wasn’t immediately returned.

An estimated 300,000 people attended the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia over the 10-day period that ended Sunday, but just 53 took advantage of an on-site COVID-19 vaccination clinic, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“Obviously we’d love to have vaccinated 1,000 people,” Pettis County Health Administrator JoAnn Martin told the Post-Dispatch. “But we are glad we made the effort.”

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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