Nearly a month has passed since Nashville ended its outdoor mask mandate, but despite plans to lift virus-related business restrictions next week, Metro health officials have no plans to lift the county’s indoor mask mandate.
Davidson is one of just two counties in the state with a mask requirement. The other, Shelby County, is set to release a revised health directive Wednesday, which is expected to change masking requirements to recommendations.
That conversation does not seem to be happening in Nashville, where a countywide mask mandate has been in effect since June 29, 2020. Metro lifted the outdoor mask requirement April 9. But even with plans to lift all business and event capacity restrictions next week, Metro health officials have signaled no timeline to end the indoor requirement.
“We’ll see how things go” is the consistent refrain from officials when questioned about such plans.
“Masks have been shown to be effective,” Alex Jahangir, chief of Metro’s COVID-19 task force, said Thursday. “We continue to monitor as things progress. As people are getting vaccinated, our numbers are headed in the right direction. So, let’s get through next week, let’s see how things play out, and let’s go from there.”
Metrics for transmission and cases of the virus in Nashville continue to remain stable, health officials said Thursday. As of Thursday, 42% of Nashville residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 33% are fully vaccinated.
Vaccines became available for anyone 16 and older in Davidson County on March 31. Since then, case rates have continued in a trend of decline. Nashville’s hospitalization rate has remained stable.
The percentage of COVID-19 tests administered that came back positive was 3.2% on Thursday — the lowest on record since March 13, 2020, when testing was just beginning.
As demand for vaccines has leveled off, Metro has announced that it will close the Music City Center vaccination site later this month. Today is the last day for first doses at Music City Center. The site will close permanently at the end of the day May 28.
All six of the counties surrounding Nashville ended mask requirements weeks ago or never had one — Sumner County being the last when its mandate ended April 9. Cases and transmission rates in all six of those counties have continued in a downward trend. According to state data, Wilson County reported 68 new cases of the virus on March 19 when the county’s mask mandate expired. Now the county averages 15.5 cases per day. Rutherford County’s mandate expired March 15. That week, the county reported an average of 93 cases a week — now down to 39 cases.
When asked whether they see any cause for concern over progress in surrounding counties after mandates were lifted, Metro health officials did not answer directly.
“We’ll continue to monitor it,” Jahangir said. “I don’t have accurate information to tell you that one way or the other right now.”
Gov. Bill Lee said last week that he has asked Mayor John Cooper to lift the county’s remaining mask mandate by Memorial Day weekend, a deadline with which the Metro Health Department has not signaled it will comply.
Tennessee’s Department of Health encourages residents to continue wearing masks but emphasizes the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Masks are an important part of the fight against COVID-19. The most effective tool we have, though, is the COVID-19 vaccine. We continue to encourage anyone 16 and older to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” Bill Christian, a spokesperson for the department, told Main Street Nashville.
Walk-in vaccinations are available at Music City Center today. Vaccination appointments are also available at the former Kmart at 2491 Murfreesboro Pike. To make an appointment, visit www.asafenashville.org. Vaccinations are also available from many other providers, including local pharmacies and grocery store clinics. Visit www.vaccinefinder.org.