Again on Thursday, Nashville’s top health officials decided the city is not yet ready to move to Phase 3 of reopening. But they indicated there’s little possibility the city would “regress” to tighter restrictions.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper points out that there are fewer “active” cases in Nashville today than there were in early May, and the number of new cases increased by 56 on Thursday, which is less than half seen in the last few days. But overall trend lines have been heading in the wrong direction. And, the mayor says, persistent hot spots are slowing the city’s progress to reopening.
“The level of cases in southeast Nashville warrants further attention, and I’ve instructed the public health department in a more focused response in these neighborhoods,” Cooper says.
Roughly half of the new cases in recent days have come from residents who live in the largely immigrant neighborhoods along Nolensville Road. The city is not, however, contemplating special restrictions for the area.
And additional citywide restrictions are virtually off the table. Conditions would have to worse a lot for Nashville to tighten up again, officials say.
“If — heaven forbid — things went horribly wrong and all the sudden we have hundreds of people in the hospital and the hospitals don’t have capacity and the mortality rate has gone up and things have gone really off the rails, then I think we would evaluate if we need to pull back to a ‘Phase Zero’ again,” says Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of the city’s coronavirus task force. “We’re not there at this moment, by any means.”
Right now, fewer than 100 people with COVID-19 are in Nashville hospitals, Jahangir says, and many of them are from surrounding counties. More than 7,000 residents are being tested each week, with fewer than 10% testing positive, considered a benchmark for plentiful testing. The city also has a newly formed army of 120 contact tracers which help the city continue reopening, despite elevated case numbers.
“We’re just pumping the breaks still, to continue evaluating the data for a few more days,” Jahangir says.