Missouri attorney general says minors among citizens who can ignore 2 local mask mandates

Missouri’s attorney general says minors can ignore mandates issued in Kansas City and Jackson County that require mask wearing in indoor public settings, the Associated Press reported.

The mandates were imposed last month as coronavirus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations worsened because of low vaccination rates and the Delta variant. Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in 2022, sued to stop the mandates in Kansas City and Jackson County.

In a letter to officials in the county and Kansas City, Schmitt cited exceptions for people with disabilities that are unable to wear masks because they impair their health or well-being, noting that the mandates fail to define either health or well-being, the AP said. He also wrote that the exceptions apply to anyone under 18.

Schmitt wrote that an exempt person (or a parent or guardian, in the case of minors) should believe that wearing a mask or face covering will have a “significant adverse impact on their personal, mental, or physical welfare.”

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt says minors are among those who can ignore mask mandates in Kansas City and Jackson County. Above, Children, some wearing face masks, get a free lunch at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia, on March 16, 2020.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Schmitt wrote to Mayor Quinton Lucas and Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. on Thursday, saying in a news release that he meant the letters as “legal direction” to spell out “who qualifies for important exceptions to mask mandates imposed by power-hungry bureaucrats.”

Lucas and White, in a joint statement, said Schmitt’s letter “makes no rational sense” and suggested it was a political ploy. Both Lucas and White are Democrats.

“Kansas City’s and Jackson County’s orders remain in effect and we stand by them to keep our young people and all people safe, particularly at a time of rising infections for those 18 and under,” their statement said. “We will protect the children of this community while the Attorney General continues to rail against responsible public health guidance to support his political campaign endeavors.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend masking for school students. Several Missouri doctors have said they fear a new surge in cases due to the lack of mask mandates at most Missouri schools, where fall classes have begun.

University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Professor Ann Marie Marciarille questioned whether Schmitt’s reasoning would hold up in front of a judge.

“Would a court looking at this say it’s compelling?” Marciarille asked. “I don’t think it makes any sense.”

Missouri reported 2,081 newly confirmed virus cases on Friday and 19 more COVID-19 deaths. All told, 636,377 cases and been confirmed since the onset of the pandemic and 10,651 deaths.

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