Masks will be required again in Metro government buildings, Nashville Mayor John Cooper's office announced Wednesday, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike again.
The resumed mandate, which takes effect Thursday, comes in response to the onslaught of the Delta variant of the coronavirus and new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The Delta variant has led to the beginning of a third wave of COVID-19 cases, with the number of active cases now standing at 2,718, compared to 444 one month ago," reads a release from the mayor's office. "The percentage of positive tests is currently higher than 11 percent, compared to less than 2 percent in June. Meanwhile, 53.6 percent of Davidson County’s population has received at least one shot of the vaccine, compared to 57.9 percent nationally and 44.8 percent in Tennessee. Metro’s masking policy will be re-evaluated on an ongoing basis as disease rates decline and vaccination levels improve."
COVID-related hospitalizations increased nearly fivefold in Tennessee in the month of July, and Tennessee's vaccination rate remains low compared to other states.
"Vaccinations are our best tool for ending the pandemic,” Cooper says in the announcement. “If you’ve been on the sidelines, waiting, now is your time to get vaccinated. Our Public Health Department has a vaccine waiting for you so you can protect your health and your family’s health."
As of this writing, Metro Nashville Public Schools officials have said that masks will be encouraged by not required for staff and students. Davidson County public schools resume next week, on Aug. 10, forcing principals and teachers to prepare for yet another year of uncertainty.
Infectious disease specialist and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine professor Dr. William Schaffner told the Scene recently that he believes vaccination should be required for all schools-related staff and that students should wear masks.
The Metro school board will hold a special meeting on Thursday to discuss COVID-19 protocols in the city's schools.
Update (2 p.m.): Dr. Adrienne Battle, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, is recommending that the school board require masks in Metro schools. Her statement:
"As a result of the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases and spread of the delta variant, the recommendations from the CDC and AAP, along with the Mayor’s new mask mandate for Metro facilities, it would be my recommendation to the Board that we adopt a universal mask policy, indoors and on buses, for the start of the 2021-22 school year in order to keep our student, staff, and their families as safe as possible."
“I wish that more Americans had taken advantage of the life-saving vaccine that has been available to them, so that the pandemic would be less of a factor in the lives of our students and a universal mask mandate would not be necessary. I’m hopeful that more community members will get the vaccine so that we can mitigate the spread of the virus and return to a normal school setting. Metro Schools will continue to do our part to promote vaccination events for our students who are eligible, their families, and our staff, along with the other mitigation protocols that can reduce transmission of the virus."
This story was first published by our sister publication Nashville Scene.