Springfield, Missouri woman sues over city’s mask mandate

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(Video shows attorney Kristi Fulnecky speak at a news conference on behalf of her client, Rachel Shelton).

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Springfield, Missouri, woman is suing the city over its decision to require face coverings, saying the health of others “is not my responsibility.”

Rachel Shelton is asking the court to temporarily stop an ordinance, and to rule that it violates her rights. The Springfield law follows a big spike in new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in southwestern Missouri and across the state.

“Your health is not my responsibility,” Shelton said at a news conference Thursday, according to the Springfield News-Leader. “Your emotional well-being is not my responsibility.”

The lawsuit claims that the “ordinance is an overreach of government” and uses the Greene County death rate as an example. It also claims that the City Council said the health department was burdened not the health care system for justification for the ordinance.

Springfield, Missouri’s third-largest city, is among several jurisdictions in the state that have begun requiring face coverings in many public places.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in Missouri since mid-June. A new record for a single day was set Tuesday. That record was broken on Wednesday, and that record was topped Thursday when the state health department announced 1,637 new confirmed cases.

The state also has recorded 1,179 deaths since the pandemic began. The rate of deaths has decreased as cases trend younger. However, hospitalizations have risen, and long-term affects from COVID-19 can still be devastating.

Many other states, including neighboring state Kansas, have also seen a major increase in cases and hospitalizations.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Shelton’s attorney, Kristi Fulnecky, said Springfield’s ordinance violates Shelton’s right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment and freedom of expression and religion under the First Amendment because she “does not want to be required to wear face coverings during church worship” or in businesses.

Fulnecky also said the ordinance that took effect last week is overly broad and violates due process.

The Springfield ordinance requires people older than 11 to wear a face covering at most businesses, entertainment venues, religious services and K-12 schools, with some exceptions.

Across Missouri, schools are deciding whether to hold in-person classes when students return to school. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, has suggested that parents opt for virtual learning.

“As this trend is going it will be very difficult for schools to have anything other than an all virtual curriculum,” Page said at a news conference Friday.

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