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Nashville mayor pushes Gov. Lee and neighboring counties to do more against COVID-19


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  -- Nashville Mayor John Cooper is calling for more pandemic restrictions at the state level and in the counties surrounding Metro.

Mayor Cooper put a mandatory mask order in place two weeks ago in response to a surge in new COVID-19 cases. The city also rolled back its economic recovery plan, once again closing bars and reducing occupancy in some establishments.

However, while Williamson and Sumner counties also put mandatory mask orders in place, none of the six counties surrounding Metro Nashville have matched the city’s other restrictions.

Cooper told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday, “Nashville is not an island and we really need a regional approach” to bring coronavirus under control.

Cell phone mobility data analyzed by Middle Tennessee State University researcher Dr. Ken Blake supports the mayor’s point. Dr. Blake filtered the data (*) to determine how often residents travel between the mid-state’s three most populous counties: Davidson, Rutherford and Williamson counties. 

Dr. Blake found that roughly four out of every 10 Rutherford County cell phone users and about six out of every 10 Williamson County cell phone users visit Davidson at least once every two weeks.

Traffic flows the other way, too. Among Metro Davidson County cell phone users, about a quarter visit Rutherford County at least once every two weeks, and about a third travel to Williamson County at least once every two weeks.

It seemed at times during Tuesday’s press conference that Mayor Cooper was speaking directly to Gov. Bill Lee in an appeal for more aggressive action against coronavirus at the state level.

For example, Cooper noted in his comments that 20 states have now paused or reversed their economic recovery plans, something Gov. Lee has said he will not do. Mayor Cooper also noted that medical facilities in some states and cities are close to being overwhelmed by recent surges in COVID-19 patients.

In an even more pointed observation, Cooper noted that infection rates are now so high in Tennessee, residents face restrictions when traveling to 20 other states.

(*) The data, provided by PlaceIQ, is compiled and released by a five-member team of academic researchers from universities in the U.S. and Canada.

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