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Metro indoor mask mandate one vote away from final approval

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Posted at 9:37 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 23:25:56-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After a lengthy discussion, Metro Council members voted to move forward with a proposed indoor mask mandate for Davidson County.

The final vote was 21 in support, 12 in opposition and four abstentions. It will come up for a third and final vote at the next council meeting on Oct. 5.

Metro Council Member Joy Styles sponsored the bill and has been a big proponent of implementing an indoor mask mandate.

During the discussion before the vote, supporters said the mandate would help protect the health and safety of residents, and as long as COVID case numbers remain high, the council should do whatever it can to help.

Opponents expressed concerns about how the mandate will be enforced. They also said the council should defer to the Metro Public Health Department to decide whether the mandate is needed.

Prior to the vote, a group of physicians, business owners and Metropolitan Nashville constituents issued a letter with around 900 signatures calling on Mayor John Cooper and Metro Public Health Department to reinstate an indoor mask requirement.

The proposed mandate would apply to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. It would not apply in houses of worship, or when eating or drinking at a restaurant. Children under 2 years old, and those who can't wear masks for medical reasons would be exempt. Violators could face a $50 fine.

The Metro Council voted 21-9 to pass a resolution "urging" the Metro Public Health Department to require vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks in indoor public spaces on Sept. 7. However, after that vote, Director of the Metro Public Health Department Dr. Gill Wright issued a letter declining to move forward with the mandate. He said the department follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations - which currently include encouraging, but not requiring masks indoors. He added that he believed getting vaccinated is the best way to fight COVID-19.

Masks are already mandated in Metro buildings and schools.

Past mask mandates in Nashville and Davidson County have been ordered by the mayor and the Metro Public Health Department.

Also on Tuesday night, the Metro Council approved a bill that called for a more comprehensive makeover of the city’s oversight of transpotainment vehicles. The bill would not only ban the consumption of alcoholic drinks while on the vehicles but also an overhaul of the city board that oversees these vehicles and its regulations. It still requires two more votes before it will be enacted.

A separate bill that would prohibit the possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages while vehicles are in operation was deferred by two meetings.