KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County and St. Louis County are teaming up to challenge a court ruling that struck down public health officials’ abilities to issue health orders.
The two Missouri counties filed a motion Monday to intervene in the Robinson vs. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services lawsuit and stay the judgment Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green issued, pending resolution on appeal or the court’s reconsideration.
The two counties argue they want to “preserve the regulations that have enabled local public health authorities to address all matters of public health, not just COVID-19.”
Green issued the judgment last month, arguing state health department regulations giving local health departments the power to issue orders violated the Missouri Constitution since they’re unelected officials.
Since then, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, has used the ruling to send letters to dozens of letters to local health departments and school districts, calling on them to end their mask mandates and all other COVID restrictions. Schmitt also warned of legal action if they ignored his requests.
Many cities and school districts have argued the ruling doesn’t apply to them because their councils and school boards, which are elected positions, voted on their mask mandates. Other districts noted the Missouri Legislature granted local school boards wide-ranging power to govern their own affairs.
But several health departments and school districts across the state quickly dropped their mask mandates, quarantine guidance and more. At least six Missouri county health departments have said they would stop COVID-19-related work altogether, including contact tracing and tracking case numbers.
Jackson and St. Louis counties argue “chaos now reigns in the state” when it comes to public health administration.
“Few public health officials, local government leaders and school boards have any idea what they are legally permitted to do or are legally prohibited from doing,” Jackson County officials wrote in a statement.
That’s why leaders from both counties said they won’t sit by.
Jackson County said they’d like to see the state health department appeal Robinson vs. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, but Schmitt, attorney for the department, has refused to do so.
“The citizens of Missouri deserve better and that is what this motion seeks to do,” Jackson County said.
FOX4 has reached out to Schmitt’s office for comment on Jackson and St. Louis counties’ new motion. We’ll update this story as we learn more.