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Mid-Missouri health departments respond to attorney general’s warning letter

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

While several health departments across the state are changing orders due to the attorney general's threat, Mid-Missouri health departments are either avoiding the question or experiencing no effect.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent letters to health departments and school districts saying they can no longer enact or enforce health orders related to COVID-19 after a Cole County ruling. The ruling, made by Cole County Judge Daniel Green on Nov. 23, decided non-elected officials cannot issue health orders, such as mask mandates or quarantine orders.

Since the letters were sent out, several Missouri health departments have halted health orders--but none in Mid-Missouri.

St. Louis County lawyers announced in court Thursday it will be rescinding its mask mandate following the Cole County ruling. Schmitt has been actively pursuing lawsuits against St. Louis County, St. Louis, Jackson County and Kansas City for mask mandates.

"Although we have consistently held that St. Louis County’s mask mandates were illegally imposed in the first place, this is the right move and is consistent with the recent judgment from the Cole County Circuit Court," Schmitt said in a Thursday press release. "We expect more local public health authorities and school districts to follow suit in the coming days and weeks.”

Laclede County announced on Facebook it will stop all COVID work. But no Mid-Missouri counties have announced a change in their COVID-related work.

Chesney Schulte with the Cole County Health Department told ABC 17 Cole County will not see any change as a result of the attorney general's letter.

"For Cole County Health Department, it really won't impact how we're doing things," Schulte said. "And the reason I say that is that we changed our contact tracing methods all the way back last November of 2020."

Schulte said Cole County realized traditional contact tracing wasn't working for them, so the department switched to a more informative approach that allowed people to come to them instead.

"We found that was really effective, that people were happy to reach out to us with their questions or concerns," Schulte said. "They were more honest to us in those situations, and we didn't feel like we had to be necessarily getting too much into people's business."

Craig Brace, Audrain County Health Department administrator and CEO, told ABC 17 in a statement that it will continue to monitor the situation and "remains committed to the health and well-being" of Audrain county residents.

“Therefore, we will be continuing our commitment to fighting COVID-19 with the resources we have at our disposal while keeping a keen eye on what is happening at the state level concerning the governance of COVID-19 regulations and the like," Brace said. "So, in answer to your question, yes, we will be continuing our COVID-related work into the foreseeable future.”

Columbia/Boone Public Health and Human Services only said it will continue to recommend CDC guidelines.

The Department of Health and Senior Services said it cannot comment at this time.

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.

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