COVID-19 is so widespread in Nashville that Mayor John Cooper says government alone can’t fix the problem. Rather, he and other local officials are urging — even pleading with — residents to use the one tool that’s been proven to work: wearing a mask.
“It’s within each of our powers to limit the spread,” he says.
Cooper’s plea was echoed by other health officials at a press briefing on Thursday. Dr. James Hildreth of Meharry Medical College says he hopes the next presidential administration will deploy a nationally coordinated strategy to prevent the spread of the virus. But he says the city can’t wait to take action in the meantime.
“It’s pretty obvious that the country is on the precipice of a logarithmic expansion of COVID-19,” Hildreth says. “We cannot force leaders to do the right thing, but we can take our own responsibility to protect ourselves.”
Coronavirus Task Force Chair Dr. Alex Jahangir has an even more urgent message for Nashvillians.
“Now, I’m going to be as direct as I can be,” he said at Thursday’s press briefing. “If you want to keep your schools open, if you want to keep your economy open, if you want to go back to some normal sense of life, it’s very easy what we can do right now. Wear a mask. Studies have shown it. You’ve all heard the experts talk about it. Honestly, the time for debate is over.”
Nashville officials say it’s too late to keep the virus out of public spaces, like restaurants and bars. And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, they’re hoping to avoid superspreader events at private gatherings.
That means urging people to avoid big groups, social distance and wear a mask whenever they’re with people outside their households.
These pleas for personal responsibility come as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all surging in Tennessee. On Thursday, 540 new cases were reported in Davidson County, along with five deaths. Local hospital capacity is hovering just above one in 10 open beds, and ICU bed capacity has dropped to just 6%.
“Leadership matters, and, also, data matters. And the data you see from the Vanderbilt study just issued this past week and all over the country shows that masks do work,” Cooper says. “The burden of proof needs to shift over to people of ‘Why in the world are you not wearing a mask?’ Let’s do right by each other.”