According to the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD), Nashville’s mask mandate was supposed to continue despite the latest CDC recommendation. However, health officials quickly reversed their decision within hours, and without offering a detailed explanation. As The Tennessee Star reported Friday, the mask mandate ended on Friday morning at 5 a.m. CST. The Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) shared that the decision was made by certain Metro health officials, who convened after Thursday’s board of health meeting.
MPHD said in a press release that certain Metro health officials met after the Metro Board of Health meeting Thursday to further review the CDC recommendations. It is unclear what further information caused them to change their minds. In response to inquiries from The Star, the MPHD spokesperson shared the same MPHD press release. He said that there weren’t any other reasons for the reversal beyond what’s been shared publicly.
“After reviewing further, a decision was [made] to end the Public health indoor mask order. We expect the order to expire on Friday, May 14,” wrote MPHD. “The MPHD continues to strongly recommend wearing masks for those who are unvaccinated when in crowds, indoors, and when unable to socially distance, as also recommended by the CDC. Each individual business retains the right to set their own restrictions regarding the use of masks.
Late Thursday afternoon, Metro health officials declared initially that the mask mandate would continue. That assertion was published just after 4 p.m. Less than 2 hours later, Metro officials reversed their decision. It appears that the change wasn’t anticipated, because MPHD had to issue a correction over three hours later regarding the reversed decision. MPHD clarified that the board of health hadn’t reversed the mask mandate decision during its meeting: rather, the board of health chair, health director, and the MPHD epidemiology team made the decision after the meeting ended.
On Friday, Mayor John Cooper claimed that the number of vaccinated individuals caused officials to reverse their decision – but, as the MPHD explained in their first Thursday post, that was the very information that health officials relied upon originally to support continuance of the mask mandate.
As of this morning, Nashville has lifted the mask mandate and all capacity restrictions. 301,700 Nashvillians have received a vaccine, which is life-saving and economy-saving. Together we weathered the storm of the last 14 months, and Nashville is ready for the rebound. pic.twitter.com/Rsms82884g
— Mayor John Cooper (@JohnCooper4Nash) May 14, 2021
Initially MPHD said that, although the CDC said that vaccinated individuals could cease mask-wearing, Metro officials felt that not enough individuals had been vaccinated to drop the mask mandate altogether.
“We look forward to a time when more of our county’s population is vaccinated, allowing mask requirements to safely be dropped altogether in public settings,” said MPHD. “With less than half of Davidson County residents vaccinated and Tennessee lagging the national average among people that are fully vaccinated, the dropping of mask requirements at this time in high-risk settings is not feasible.”
— NashvilleHealth (@NashvilleHealth) May 13, 2021
Two hours later, without any detailed explanation, MPHD issued health officials’ reversed decision on continuing the mask mandate. The correction noting that the board of health didn’t make the decision came over three hours after the reversal announcement.
CLARIFICATION: The Chair of the Board of Health, the Director of Health and members of the MPHD epidemiology team made the decision to end the mask mandate, not the Board of Health. The decision was made after the Board of Health meeting concluded. https://t.co/K81ukLqirB
— NashvilleHealth (@NashvilleHealth) May 14, 2021
The Star reached out to spokespersons with the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) to inquire whether state officials had influenced this decision. At the end of April, Governor Bill Lee told counties with mask mandates to remove them before Memorial Day Weekend.
TDH spokespersons would only clarify that they are independent from all metro health departments, and that The Star would have to speak with MPHD.
– – –