St. Louis County Council conducting virtual meetings


1st District Councilwoman Rita Days during a Board of Freeholders hearing in 2019

By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

St. Louis County Council Chairwoman Rita Heard Days announced Jan. 13 the County Council will meet virtually for at least three weeks, in response to COVID-19 case rates. 

Days, who represents the 1st District, said in a press release that she discussed the matter with the other council members and determined that the council would meet virtually for a minimum of three weeks. Virtual meetings resumed  Jan. 18, with the last virtual meeting slated for Feb. 1. 

“After much consideration, I have decided that, for the sake of our employees and the public, it is the best that we conduct virtual meetings … I will re-evaluate the situation in 3 weeks and consult with my colleagues again to determine the best path forward,” Days stated in press release. “Please bear with us as we deal with this pandemic in a manner that is safe for all involved as well as maintain the transparency of St. Louis County Government.” 

In March 2020, the County Council moved to virtual meetings and did not return to in-person meetings until June 2021. 

Several members of the County Council such as Vice Chairwoman Shalonda Webb of the 4th District, 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas, 5th District Councilwoman Lisa Clancy and 2nd District Councilwoman Kelli Dunaway were virtual at the Jan. 11 meeting, the last in-person meeting before going virtual.  County Executive Sam Page and County Counselor Beth Orwick also attended that meeting virtually. 

The decision to return to virtual meetings comes on the heels of a Committee of the Whole meeting Jan. 7, where council members discussed placing restrictions on public speakers who refused to comply with the county mask mandate in the council chambers. 

The three Republicans on the council – Fitch, Trakas and Harder – stated that they would not mask and they did not agree with restricting unmasked speakers.

“Some people want … to have this public display – some call it taking some sort of civil disobedience type of action. What’s going to be the criminal charge? … Is that what we want,” Fitch said. “We’ve heard over and over again on this most recent mask mandate that it’s not enforceable.” 

Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit against the county after it enacted its most recent mask mandate, requesting a temporary restraining order against its enforcement. Last week, a judge denied that request. Another hearing on the mandate will be held Feb. 8.

As of Jan. 21, the county has a testing percent positivity of 33.8 percent, which is considered “high” by the Centers for Disease Control, and is averaging 1,545 new cases a day.