Eureka and Wildwood residents, business owners and elected officials will not have to wrestle with a controversial mask mandate, at least for the time being.
On Tuesday, St. Louis County Circuit Judge Ellen Hannigan Ribaudo issued a temporary restraining order against a countywide mask order that had been put in place July 26.
The restraining order will be in place until Aug. 17 when the judge is expected to hear arguments and hand down a final ruling on the issue, court documents show.
On July 23, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced with St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones that the city and county would have a mandatory mask order in place starting July 26. The order required everyone age 5 and older to wear a mask, even if vaccinated.
Wildwood Mayor Jim Bowlin announced on July 23 that the city would not enforce the mandate.
The next day, Eureka Mayor Sean Flower announced that his city also would not enforce the mandate and would remain “mask optional.”
“I know that the people in this community don’t want a mask mandate,” he said. “They’re highly vaccinated. They don’t want any more restrictions in their business. They don’t want any more restrictions. They’re willing to look at data, and they want to make their own choices for their families.”
Before the temporary restraining order was put in place, Flower said city employees and police would not enforce the order.
“I personally feel very strongly about it, so we are certainly not going to spend city resources trying to back up something that the city and the taxpayers don’t want to do,” he said.
When the order was issued July 26, Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office filed suit in St. Louis County Circuit Court to block it. The following day, the St. Louis County Council voted 5-2 to rescind the mandate.
Council members Ernie Trakas, Tim Fitch, Mark Harder, Rita Heard Days and Shalonda Webb voted to end the mask order. Kelli Dunaway and Lisa Clancy voted to keep the order in place.
On July 28, Page said the health order still stood, and Schmitt’s office sought the restraining order.
“The only person who believes that the law is in place is the county executive,” Flower said before Tuesday’s decision.
Bowlin, who was the first mayor to come out against the order, said he did it for two reasons, statistical and practical.
“There’s no material statistics difference between (St. Charles County, Franklin County, Jefferson County and St. Louis County) and yet, St. Louis County has had, as we all know, significantly more mandates and restrictions than any of the other three and in the case of St. Charles County has had no restrictions or mandates at all,” he said.
Bowlin also said the city does not have enough police to enforce the order.
Eureka business owners set their own mask policies before Tuesday’s restraining order was issued.
T.J. St. John, owner of St. John Florist and Gifts, said he allows customers to decide whether they want to wear a mask in his store, 510 W. Fifth St.
“They don’t have to wear a mask. If they want to, obviously, that’s fine,” he said. “We also have masks here that we provide. If they are more comfortable with us putting a mask on while we’re waiting on them, then I have no problem doing that.”
St. John said many of his customers place orders by telephone, so he does not have much foot traffic to deal with.
“I know it’s a touchy spot for some people,” he said. “We just want them to be comfortable with it. We’re just a small family business just trying to survive all of it.”
Michelle Johnson and Curt Newsome, who own Michelle’s Cafe, are requiring everyone to wear masks in their restaurant at 104 S. Central Ave. Johnson said they require masks for the safety of staff and customers.
The couple posted the requirement on the business’ Facebook page on July 30.
“It’s just been a very overwhelming positive response, and we’re not searching for anything like that,” Newsome said.
Johnson said the few customers who have refused to wear a mask have been asked to leave. She said the majority of people have had no issue following her request to wear a mask.
“There’s a lot of people who are, I think, quietly just going about their lives and really just want to not get sick,” she said. “Some of the people that are just loud and rude and bullies, I call them that because it’s all about them. Those people I don’t think are in the majority. I just think they just talk louder.”
Johnson said customers may take their masks off when they are eating or drinking, but they must wear them when they interact with staff members.
“I’m not trying to fight, but I’m not going to back down,” Johnson said.
Newsome said a customer made an issue about the policy last week.
“Even the (other) customers were speaking up telling her to quiet down and telling her how rude she was,” he said. “She realized right away she did not have a fan base.”
Maggie Schamber, who owns the Orange Couch Coffee House, 98 The Legends Parkway Suite 101, said employees will wear masks, but she does not require customers to wear them.
“It is confusing because different sources are saying different things,” she said.
Schamber said Plexiglas dividers are in place to protect everyone, and her establishment offers curbside service for those who are uncomfortable coming inside.
Schamber, who opened her business in 2020, said she enforced a mask mandate last year and struggled because of it.
She said she did not receive any CARES Act funding, and she feels she cannot enforce a mask-wearing policy that could turn people away because she cannot afford it.
“There was no help whatsoever,” she said. “I reduced my hours. I was working by myself because I couldn’t pay my employees.”
Walmart requires customers to wear masks while inside stores that are in counties with substantial or high transmission, which includes St. Louis County. The company made the announcement on July 30 after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance about wearing masks.
Originally Appeared Here