EDITOR'S NOTE: Nashville's new mandatory mask order is now in effect. You can see the updated story here.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- The Nashville Department of Health will issue a mandatory order requiring that every resident wear a mask in public by Sunday evening.
The Metro Board of Health met in special session Friday afternoon. At the conclusion of a brief, 30-minute meeting, the board passed a motion mandating that the department create and issue the order within 48 hours.
The board’s motion requires that the forthcoming order require Nashvillians to wear masks in any indoor but public setting, such as restaurants, retail stores, schools, and gyms. The board gave Metro Health more leeway to decide whether to require masks in outdoor settings.
Chairman Dr. Alex Jahangir pushed the board hard to pass the mask mandate and for the Department of Health to issue the enabling order this weekend. He stated repeatedly that failing to act quickly would cost lives.
The number of new cases of COVID-19 being reported by Metro is up sharply in recent weeks. On Saturday, a new record high was set of 350 confirmed infections in 24 hours.
Board member and Nashville Psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Campbell made an economic argument for using masks to slow the spread of the virus, noting “Economically we need to do this. If we can’t reduce the rate of COVID it’s going to impair the further opening of businesses and people getting back to work.”
The Metro Department of Health is tasked with writing and issuing the county-wide order. Board Vice-Chair Tene Hamilton Franklin urged Department Director Dr. Michael Caldwell to be mindful of Nashville’s diverse community as the new order is issued and enforced.
“I just want to make sure that we are careful to make sure that there’s not a disparate impact on individuals living with homelessness and also the Black and Brown community,” Hamilton said.
Dr. Caldwell has expressed reservations in the past about issuing mandatory mask orders. He has expressed concern about how such an order would be enforced. But during Friday’s meeting he agreed with board members that the time has 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 arguments in opposition revolved around whether the city had the authority to enforce the mask requirements. Others lamented the loss of personal freedom.
This is a developing story. WMOT News will update as needed. You can watch Friday’s Board of Health meeting in its entirety here.