Mask mandates in Missouri highlight political divisions

With the rise of the Delta variant across the state of Missouri, Kansas City reinstated its COVID-19 mask mandate earlier this week. 

“The entire state of Missouri, every one of our 114 counties is a hotspot zone for COVID-19. So we saw it was important for us to act, given that updated guidance, from not just the CDC, but our health department, and that’s why we have a mask mandate today,” said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. 

Fully vaccinated rates are just below 40% in Kansas City and with cases on the rise, Lucas and the city were prompted to issue the mask mandate, which requires masks to be worn in all indoor spaces where six feet can not be maintained.  

Further east, St. Louis County also tried to reinstate its mask mandate, CBS News’ Mireya Villarreal reports.

Two days after Kansas City’s mandate went into effect, however, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sued the city and Mayor Lucas, arguing that Missourians have the right to make their own decision when it comes to masks. He is also suing over St. Louis County’s mask mandate.

Schmitt wrote on Twitter that the “mask mandate is an orchestrated distraction” and the “restrictions are not about science but about politics.”

Lucas told Villarreal he is not trying to infringe on any freedoms, but is instead trying to prevent the Delta variant from spreading throughout the community.

“You know what I’m trying to do, is make sure that we can stay open. He [Schmitt] doesn’t care about the outbreak in our community. There are too many people in this state and in this country who right now when we are dealing with a real crisis, have chosen, I think, to divide us further,” Lucas told Villarreal.

The political division can also be seen inside local hospitals. Rachel Johnson, a nurse at Saint Luke’s Hospital, said she has patients from the same family dying on her floor.

“In the last year, I’ve seen more death than the whole other seven years of my career combined,” she said. “Do what you can. Like I said, even if it’s not going to affect you, it’s going to affect somebody.”

Hospital doctors are saying many of their new patients are unvaccinated and younger, with more severe cases. Some hospitals in the area are having to turn people away and telling people who think they have COVID to go see their primary doctors instead of going to the hospital.