Starting Monday, Nashville will cap private gatherings to eight people, with no more than two households represented. Previously the limit was 25.
It marks a shift in the focus of pandemic restrictions from public events to private spaces.
“We need to be just as good in private as we are in public,” Mayor John Cooper says.
But the city will not “undo” any permissions already granted to larger groups, who have had to seek approval for their protocols from the Metro Public Health Department. MPHD board chair Dr. Alex Jahangir says none of the events that have worked with the city have led to clusters of new coronavirus cases.
That means that Nissan Stadium can still host thousands at sporting events, for example, and the Opry House can hold concerts with limited attendance still in the hundreds. The city also isn’t following recommendations from the White House task force to limit indoor dining to 25% capacity.
The mayor acknowledges the appearance of inconsistency.
“It is hard for all of us all the time to understand exactly different words and applying this. I think there’s a difference between ‘groupings’ and ‘gatherings,’ ” Cooper says. “Even though the ‘gathering; may appear to be larger, you’re carefully managing the ‘groupings’ to limit the risk that already exists between these people.”
Cooper says large “gatherings,” like a concert, can still keep smaller groups away from each other, though he says health officials will tighten up on future permissions for public events. He notes that private gatherings are where people seem to let their guard down with minimal mask-wearing and distancing, leading to the current record case counts in Nashville.
City officials are encouraging surrounding communities to join the “rule of eight” requirement, noting that the state of Kentucky has already instituted the same restriction.