KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City has been in the political spotlight over the past week. It started with a visit from President Biden to discuss his Build Back Better plan. From there it dissolved into confusion for some when Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt weighed in on area mask mandates and other COVID-19 protocols.
Political analysts Annie Pressley and Rosetta Okohson join FOX 4’s John Holt and The Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling to discuss how issues are impacting us in Kansas City.
It’s been said that you need to pick your battles. It seems like COVID-19 protocols, including mask mandates and quarantines, are the battles Missouri AG Schmitt is focused on right now.
Following a court ruling last week Schmitt sent letters to dozens of Kansas City-area 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.
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. The counties have decided to join together to challenge the court ruling and Schmitt’s interpretation of it.
So, why is Schmitt tackling the issue when he’s also campaigning for U.S. Senate, and is it a good idea?
“This is an interesting campaign strategy, Okohson said. “I think the number of lawsuits that are happening around are quite frankly quite confusing for a lot of folks. It’s the holidays, we all spent last year apart from one another, we’re trying to get back to normal, nobody loves the masks, but I think we do need to be safe.”
Schmitt is also in a fight with the Lee’s Summit School District after leaders responded to the AG’s cease and desist letter.
“He’s really making this the central reason for his service in office and maybe his candidacy too,” Helling said.
“I think this is something Eric feels like he can’t let go and now he’s gone down this path and it’s very much a double down mode now,” Okohson said. “I just don’t know if it’s a winning strategy. I don’t know of anyone who is enjoying this kind of conversation, or resources and time that are being wasted.”
Schmitt is in a crowded field for the Missouri Senate primary scheduled for next year. He has made mask mandates and other protocols, and who can legally enact health orders a prominent part of his race.
“He is the Attorney General and that is his job,” Presley said. “If we go back and look at the Genesis of this case, it was actually filed last year by restaurant owners in St. Louis who were closing as a result of these very mandate, quarantine rules.”
“The Attorney General is appropriate to establish a voice in this whole operation and he agreed that, in fact, it is unconstitutional and that we need to find a solution to using thoughtful mandates, thoughtful quarantines, and what we think works. But just to broad brush the fact that you can shut people’s businesses down with these mandates appears to be unconstitutional,” Presley said.
The continuing battle between Schmitt and local health departments and school districts is also keeping his name in the news and headlines.
White Schmitt is fighting a battle over mask mandates and quarantines, President Biden is facing a different fight. One about the economy, inflation and the direction the U.S. is heading while continuing to fight the pandemic.
President Biden traveled to Kansas City hoping to drum up support for his Build Back Better plan. Many cities asked him to visit, but he chose Kansas City, even though Missouri and Kansas are both traditionally Republican territory.
“He knows it’s a red state. He knows he’s going to be welcomed because he knows he has people here. And I think it’s easy to come to the heart of America and for people to grasp him as he is, the President of the United States,” Presley said.
The child tax credit also expired Wednesday, which is another sore spot for some lawmakers who couldn’t get it passed again.
“Regular people, regular voters are just looking to know ‘what have you done for me lately?’ It’s not just a Janet Jackson song. People are looking for you to figure out how you’re gonna help them and how you’re gonna support them,” Okohson said.
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