More Missouri Health Departments Stop COVID Services After Threats From AG Eric Schmitt

Over a half-dozen more Missouri health departments stop COVID services after Attorney General Eric Schmitt threatened legal action if they were to continue.

At least six health departments issued statements Thursday night saying they would halt all COVID-related work, including case investigations, contact tracing, quarantine directives, and public announcement of the number of cases and deaths. Agencies in Stoddard, Pemiscot, New Madrid, Scott, Dunklin, and Laclede Counties were included, according to The Kansas City Star.

The announcements said the decision was a "huge concern" but they had to follow Schmitt's "orders" until state health officials gave them directions.

Schmitt, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, sent letters this week to local health officials and school districts threatening legal action if they didn't obey a ruling made the previous month by Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green that banned COVID regulations and health orders from local health departments, according to The Associated Press.

Carrol County also said it would comply with the court decisions, while two departments that cover counties Davies, Gentry, DeKalb, and Worth said they would stop issuing quarantine directives for schoolchildren. Others said they were unsure of what to do.

However, in a statement, McDonald County Health Department officials said they would continue publicly announcing case numbers and call people who test positive for COVID to advise them on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services officials have yet to comment on Green's ruling. Director Donald Kauerauf proposed in a letter to local health departments that they turn to advice from lawyers.

State health officials told local health departments Tuesday they were gathering questions regarding the court ruling to create a "consistent and uniform response."

Missouri Health Departments, COVID Order Ban
Missouri Health Department of Health and Senior Services officials have yet to comment on Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green's ruling that bans COVID regulations and health orders from local health departments. In this photo, a sign outside St. Luke's Hospital turns away visitors as the Coronavirus Pandemic causes a climate of anxiety and changing routines in America on Apr. 2, 2020, in Kansas City, Missouri. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Schmitt's threat has sparked more opposition to COVID-19 orders in some school districts as well. The attorney general on Wednesday also urged parents to report districts with mask and quarantine rules to his office.

"There has been pushback throughout the year but this has definitely escalated it," said Christine McDonald, spokeswoman for EducationPlus, a nonprofit representing 60 St. Louis area school districts.

School officials argue they have the authority under state law to implement health rules on campuses despite the ruling, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

McDonald cited a letter sent Thursday by the Missouri School Boards' Association that says "school districts' authority and obligation to prevent the spread of contagious diseases in schools has not been impacted." The letter cites five state laws that the association says gives local school boards authority to make health and safety rules.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Missouri Health Departments, COVID Order Ban
While many local health departments said they would desist COVID-related work, McDonald County Health Department officials released a statement saying they continue publicly announcing case numbers and call people who test positive for COVID to advise them on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In this photo, a nurse administers the COVID vaccine at a baseball game on Aug. 5, 2021, in Springfield, Missouri. Spencer Platt/Getty Images