Starting Oct. 1, Nashville will raise the limits on events to a cap of 500 people, so long as that’s less than 30% capacity of the venue. This will allow the Grand Ole Opry, for instance, to host a socially-distanced crowd of 500 for upcoming shows.
However, entertainment venues must get specific permission from the Metro Public Health Department and present a health and safety plan for the city to approve.
Sustained improvement in coronavirus metrics is also resulting in a few slight tweaks to restaurant regulations.
Parties of eight will be able to sit together, up from six. And for large restaurants and bars, they can have as many as 100 patrons per floor and an additional 100 outside.
Mayor John Cooper has felt increasing public pressure, including from Gov. Bill Lee, to let the hospitality industry resume without so many restrictions. Newly released data about major coronavirus clusters in Davidson County reveal none of them are tied to restaurants, but Cooper says rushing the reopening could easily backfire since so much of the economy has come to depend on tourism.
“We have to look after our own reputation here in Nashville. We have businesses that depend on Nashville’s public health reputation to reopen successfully, and we are doing that,” he says.
Nashville still has roughly 15 cases per 100,000 residents. The city is shooting for 10 per 100,000. But other numbers continue to improve, like the test positivity rate. And the transmission rate, which measures how many additional people are becoming infected from each coronavirus case, is hovering just above 1.0. This figure needs to drop below one in order for the pandemic to quickly subside.
Davidson County once led the state of Tennessee in its share of new coronavirus cases. Not only is it the second most populous county but it also had the highest rate of transmission. Cooper notes that Davidson is now 75th of the state’s 95 counties. He credits the county’s mask mandate and the caution around reopening bars and restaurants, as recommended by federal health agencies.
“I think there’s a question as to why is the state not consistent with the national response, much more than why is [Davidson County] not consistent with the other counties,” he says.
As for the mask mandate, coronavirus task force chair Dr. Alex Jahangir says he does not see it being lifted until a vaccine has created herd immunity in the city.