Nashville health officials say they’re already seeing improvement in new coronavirus cases now that the largest surrounding counties have reinstated their mask mandates.
“We see that this is working,” says Dr. Alex Jahangir, Nashville coronavirus task force chair. “And this has a positive impact on Davidson County as well.”
Mayor John Cooper has encouraged surrounding counties to require masks since so many people travel in and out of Nashville from the suburbs each day.
Montgomery, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties are seeing the beginnings of a downturn after reinstating face covering requirements in October. By contrast, in Maury County —which has never required masks — cases are shooting up.
At Nashville’s weekly COVID briefing, Jahangir displayed the above graph to highlight the slight improvement in Davidson County since neighboring counties required masks. He also called out Maury County with its escalating cases — currently the fifth highest disease activity in the state.
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles has called the focus on masks “insanity” and has continued to dodge questions about why he’s holding out, even as Maury Regional Medical Center’s ICU is at capacity with COVID patients.
“Right now, masks are the most effective tool we have to fight this virus. This is fact, period,” Jahangir says. “I think we’ve just demonstrated with the graphs that I showed that it has happened here locally.”
However, Jahangir’s charts left off the rest of the neighboring counties — Cheatham and Robertson — which have also seen slight improvements recently, even without a mask mandate.
In recent weeks, Nashville officials have doubled down on the effectiveness of masks, even while lifting some restrictions on restaurants and bars. On Thursday, they said there have been no outbreaks traced to events authorized by the Metro Public Health Department, which range from weddings to the presidential debate at Belmont University.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has continued to resist mandating masks statewide, as several neighboring states do, arguing that local ordinances could be more effective. However, Nashville officials have complained that the patchwork of rules decreases the potential benefits of masking since many people cross county lines for work every day.