Nashville will begin to ease some “Safer at Home” restrictions Monday, even as new cases of the coronavirus continue to rise.
Mayor John Cooper says the health benchmarks officials have been watching aren’t perfect, but that the city has earned a “passing grade” to start the first phase of Metro’s “Roadmap for Reopening.”
“This first Safer at Home response allowed us to avoid calamity,” Cooper says. “We aren’t an island. People have to get back to work. And we have to provide a path to do that safely.”
Next week, restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to open at 50% capacity. Routine and elective medical and dental procedures will also resume for patients who are less than 70 years old. Bars, entertainment venues, salons and gyms, however, will stay closed.
Businesses that reopen will be expected to screen their employees for symptoms every day and require staff to wear face masks. They’ve also been encouraged to provide workers with hand hygiene products and post signs on their doors, asking customers to wear masks.
The Metro Public Health Department has hired 20 additional employees to enforce violations.
Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of the coronavirus task force, says people should patronize the businesses that are following the rules. If health metrics continue to improve, he says, the city can continue to move forward into new phases of its reopening plan.
Health Data Still Mixed
Jahangir says officials have been monitoring multiple measures to determine when to let parts of the economy reopen. Until there’s a vaccine, he says the city won’t be able to completely contain COVID-19. But overall, he says the city is on the right track.
Davidson County has 3,432 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 86 new cases reported in the past 24 hours. Two more residents have died — a 75-year-old woman and a 74-year-old man — bringing the total number of deaths to 35.
Officials had hoped to see the 14-day average of new cases to decline before reopening non-essential businesses, and that hasn’t happened yet. The city’s transmission rate is also still hovering at one, which means each person who contracts the coronavirus is still spreading it to one other person, on average.
But according to Metro’s health dashboard, contact tracing, testing and hospital capacity are all in good shape to handle the spread of the virus. There are enough open hospital beds, and the city was able to cancel plans to open an emergency treatment space in Music City Center.
Still, residents are being asked to remain at home whenever possible, even when businesses start to open. Those who can work from home should continue to do so and avoid gathering with more than 10 people.
More restrictions will be lifted if the numbers improve for 14 more days.