NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Mike Osborne) – The Nashville Department of Health will issue a mandatory order requiring each resident to wear a mask in public on Sunday night.
The Metro Board of Health met in a special session on Friday afternoon. At the conclusion of a brief 30-minute meeting, the board approved a motion ordering the department to create and issue the order within 48 hours.
The board’s motion requires that the next order require Nashville residents to wear masks anywhere indoors but public, such as restaurants, retail stores, schools, and gyms. The board gave Metro Health more leeway in deciding whether masks are required in outdoor settings.
The president, Dr. Alex Jahangir, lobbied the board to pass the mask’s mandate and for the Health Department to issue the enabling order this weekend. He repeatedly said that not acting quickly would cost lives.
The number of new COVID-19 cases reported by Metro has increased considerably in recent weeks. On Saturday, a new record of 350 confirmed infections was established in 24 hours.
Board member and Nashville psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Campbell made an economic argument to wear masks to slow the spread of the virus, noting “We have to do this economically. If we can’t reduce the COVID rate, it will hurt the greater openness of companies and people who return to work. “
The Metro Health Department is tasked with drafting and issuing the order throughout the county. Board Vice President Tene Hamilton Franklin urged Department Director Dr. Michael Caldwell to consider the diverse community of Nashville as the new order is issued and enforced.
“I just want to make sure that we take care to make sure there is no disparate impact on people living with homelessness and also on the black and brown community,” said Hamilton.
Dr. Caldwell has expressed reservations in the past about issuing mandatory mask orders. It has expressed concern about how such an order would be applied. But during Friday’s meeting, he agreed with board members that the time had come for a mandatory mask order in Nashville.
Reaction to the board’s mandate on Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s Facebook page was generally positive. Most of the opposing arguments revolved around whether the city had the authority to enforce the mask requirements. Others mourned the loss of personal freedom.
This is a developing story. WMOT News will be updated as necessary. You can view Friday’s Board of Health meeting in its entirety here.