NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Nashville issued a mandatory health order on Sunday requiring residents to wear a mask in public.
The order comes in response to a sharp rise in new cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks. The city set a grim record on Saturday with an all-time high 350 new infections reported in 24 hours.
The order runs six pages long, with much of its wording devoted to where and when masks are not required.
Metro residents do not have to wear a mask in their own homes or cars, while at a restaurant or working alone in an office. Masks will not be required in schools, or places of worship or when exercising out of doors.
Children under 12 are not required to wear a mask. Individuals with breathing disorders and anyone incapable of removing a mask for themselves are also exempt.
The mask must cover both the nose and mouth to “impede the spread of saliva or other fluids” when speaking, coughing, or sneezing.
The order stresses that wearing a mask is not a substitute for the continued practice of social distancing.
The order makes anyone found not wearing a mask subject to a Class C misdemeanor charge. In Tennessee, a Class C Misdemeanor conviction can result in a fine of up to $50 or 30 days in jail.
The Metro Nashville Board of Health voted to put the mask order in place during hastily called meeting Friday evening. The Metro Department of Health was tasked with writing and issuing the county-wide order by no later than Sunday evening.
Board of Health member and Nashville Psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Campbell argued the panel had little choice but to order the mandate, 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.”
Board Vice-Chair Tene Hamilton Franklin urged Nashville Department of Health Director Dr. Michael Caldwell to be mindful of Nashville’s diverse community as the new order is 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.