On July 2, 2020, officials for St. Louis City and St. Louis County issued similar public health orders which require face coverings be worn by all persons over the age of 9 in the following circumstances:
- When present at any business or public accommodation, indoor or outdoor (including employees or visitors);
- When outdoors in a public space when anyone other than members of their household or living unit will be within six feet; and
- When attending a gathering of individuals who are not members of their household in any area which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to others when six feet of separation is not feasible. This restriction does not apply to gatherings of individuals at personal residences.
Children between the ages of 3 and 9 are strongly encouraged, but not required, to wear a face covering while under the direct supervision of an adult.
The orders provide limited exceptions to wearing a mask in public for certain circumstances and health conditions. Those exempt from the face covering requirement include persons:
- under the age of 2;
- with health conditions that prohibit wearing a face covering;
- who have trouble breathing, or are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance;
- who are hearing impaired, or someone who is communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication;
- who are at a place of public accommodation and are consuming food or drink while adequately distanced from other patrons;
- who are at a public pool while in the water;
- who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service; and
- playing a sport, exercising or using exercise equipment while exerting themselves.
Businesses and other venues of “public accommodation” must post the requirement that face coverings are required for entry and must be continuously worn while present in the business or venue. The St. Louis County order defines places of public accommodation as “[b]usinesses or other facilities, both public and private, indoor and outdoor, used by the public, including, but not limited to, grocery and other retail stores, service establishments, educational institutions, entertainment and recreational facilities, concert venues, museums, bowling alleys, amusement parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, zoos, public and private social clubs.”
Moreover, businesses are authorized to deny entry to members of the public who refuse to wear face coverings; however, a business shall neither require the individual produce medical documentation verifying a medical condition or disability, nor ask about the nature of a medical condition or disability.
Officials have stated that the mask mandate is intended to continue to fight the spread of COVID-19 while still allowing businesses to remain open. The goal is to not only slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, but also to avoid the need to revert back to business restrictions or issue another stay-at-home order. As St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page stated, “we want businesses and restaurants to stay open. We want to continue to reopen and return to more normal activities, but we cannot do that unless everyone follows the same guidelines and proven practices to protect themselves and others from spreading COVID-19.”
The public health orders go into effect Friday, July 3, 2020 at 7:00 a.m., just in time for the holiday weekend where gatherings of larger crowds are expected. Officials have not specified how they would enforce the face covering mandates, but they expect peer pressure to play a large role.
These public health orders come amid a recent surge of COVID-19 diagnoses and increased deaths in Missouri. St. Louis City and County are following the trend among others areas, such as Jackson County and Kansas City, which now require the use of face coverings in public. According to Missouri Governor Mark Parson, the mask mandate is not statewide; rather, each city and county will determine whether to implement such requirements.
The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.