Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has filed a lawsuit against Kansas City’s new mask mandate, delivering on a promise to challenge rules he calls unconstitutional as local officials grapple with a wave of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
The Republican attorney general is suing in Jackson County Circuit Court, arguing the order is arbitrary and capricious. In a court filing, Schmitt notes Mayor Quinton Lucas’s reversal of position on a mask mandate and also contends the mandate is not an “appropriate disease control measure” and inadequate to control the spread of COVID-19.
“Today, I filed suit against Kansas City to stop the imposition of a mask mandate on the people of the Kansas City region. This continued unconstitutional and unreasonable government overreach must stop, especially in the face of a widely available vaccine. Requiring schoolchildren to mask all day while in school is not based in science and is completely ridiculous,” Schmitt said in a statement.
The mandate, which went into effect Monday, requires masks to be worn in indoor public spaces. Lucas announced the order amid rising numbers of cases and a growing realization by public health officials that fully-vaccinated people with breakthrough infections can still spread the virus. His office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Schmitt’s filing is similar to a lawsuit he filed last Monday against mask mandates in St. Louis City and County. He asked for a temporary restraining order against the county after its council voted to repeal the mask order but County Executive Sam Page maintained the vote wasn’t binding.
A St. Louis County Circuit judge granted the order Tuesday, halting that mask mandate.
Schmitt, who is campaigning for U.S. Senate, has appeared several times on Fox News and conservative radio to discuss the legal fight. But Lucas said last week a request to meet with Schmitt to head off the litigation was declined.
“I reached out to the office of our State Attorney General for a meeting between the two of us on his legal concerns about the mask mandate in Kansas City, so that we can address any issues and avoid needless litigation expenses,” Lucas tweeted Thursday morning. “I am told the AG’s schedule will not allow it.”
The lawsuit comes as cases spike across the Kansas City region. More than 1,000 cases were reported on Friday, according to data compiled by the Mid-America Regional Council, the highest one-day total since early January.
More than 150 new hospitalizations were also reported Friday, according to MARC. The average number of new hospitalizations each day has been rising since early June, from a low point of 39 to 133 earlier this week.
Missouri lawmakers this year gave county and city councils the ability to revoke public health orders, including any that “places restrictions on the opening of or access to” businesses, churches, schools and other gathering places. The St. Louis County Council last week tried to use that power to rescind its mask mandate, leading to legal confusion as the county executive, Sam Page, insisted the order still stood.
In Kansas City, Lucas has said he will introduce a resolution in City Council for support of emergency actions.
The Star’s Jeanne Kuang contributed reporting