Mask-wearing is being credited for a slight but sustained decline in new coronavirus cases in Nashville. The 14-day average is back to 311 cases per day in Davidson County, down from an average of 370 per day in the first half of July.
On Thursday, the city reported two days’ worth of results because of reporting glitches on Wednesday, with 411 new cases over 48 hours and one new fatality.
Mayor John Cooper says compliance seems to be improving each week of the mandate, despite Metro Police not enforcing the rule with citations. Cooper says the only way to get long-term buy-in is if people come to accept that the inconvenience is the only way to have life return to a relative normal.
“It’s conceivably weeks and months ahead of us having to develop this as a habit,” he says. “We have to have people understand it.”
The mayor has repeatedly suggested the state should have a more coordinated effort since people move across county lines each day. He’s pointed out that other Southern states have mandated masks, including North Carolina and Alabama.
But when asked Thursday about Gov. Bill Lee’s refusal to mandate masks, Cooper says it’s a reasonable policy disagreement over how to get the highest rate of compliance.
“I am not that frustrated with the state,” Cooper says. “States and cities always have their own relationship, and I don’t think anybody cares more about Tennesseans than Gov. Lee does.”
While there isn’t a statewide mask mandate, officials are leaning on local leaders whose counties are seeing spikes.
Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell, who is also head of the Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group, says he’s been dispatched to convince mayors to issue mandates in their communities.
“It is part of my charge from the governor,” he told a “Breakfast with the Mayors” event in Williamson County this week. Ezell said he’s working on neighboring counties to Williamson which have yet to mandate masks.
After Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron mandated masks there last week, Lee praised him for reversing on the issue.