NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — As of 5 a.m. Friday, the mask mandate in Davidson County is no longer in effect. However, individual businesses can continue to set their own restrictions regarding the use of masks.
Nashville and Davidson County's remaining COVID-19 restrictions were also lifted Friday, allowing full capacity inside businesses and at event venues.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Hours after saying an indoor mask mandate would stay in place, Nashville health officials changed their minds Thursday night and said they would not require masks for vaccinated people while indoors, matching the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC said locations, such as health care facilities, will continue to follow their specific infection control recommendations.
"When we had time for people to process the policy, discuss it as a group with our epidemiologist, our medical personnel, our public health professionals and come up with a good plan then we did," Dr. Alex Jahangir, COVID-19 Task Force Chair, told NewsChannel 5 on Thursday.
But the concern remains as 57% of Nashvillians still have not been vaccinated.
"The initial thought was if we leave a mask mandate in we will protect more than a majority of our city. But as we've had time to process this policy it becomes very evident that it becomes really hard to enforce and we want to follow the science," said Jahangir. "I think more and more we're starting to get away from the terminology of herd immunity. I think what we're encouraging is everyone get vaccinated as soon as they can. I think the probability of us as a city, or even as a country, getting to 70% or 80% is really low," he added.
As of Thursday, 43.5% of Davidson County Residents received at least their first vaccine, while 36.5% are fully vaccinated.
Metro Public Health Department Director of Communications released the following statement on the reversal:
"The Board Chair and the Director of Health, and Metro Public Health Department epidemiologists met following this afternoon’s Board meeting to further evaluate the new recommendations regarding mask usage that were issued by the CDC just prior to the Board of Health meeting. After reviewing further, a decision was to end the Public Health indoor mask order. We expect the order to expire on Friday, May 14. 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."
Below is the initial statement released on keeping the mandate:
"The Metro Public Health Department is encouraged by the recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, further emphasizing the importance of widespread COVID-19 vaccination. 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. With less than half of Davidson County residents vaccinated, and Tennessee lagging the national average among people that are fully vaccinated, dropping of mask requirements at this time in high-risk settings is not feasible. In addition, we are just now vaccinating our 12-15 year-olds and this will give them time to become vaccinated. As we continue to reopen over the next few weeks the need for masks indoors will continue to be evaluated, but at this time the mask mandate will remain in place."
WHAT IF YOU'RE STILL NOT VACCINATED?
As for unvaccinated people, the CDC said they remain at risk of falling ill with COVID-19 or spreading the virus to others.
Tennessee does not now, nor has ever had a mask mandate, prompting no change on a state level. But in Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear says Kentucky will change its mask mandate to reflect the latest guidance from the CDC that eases indoor mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people, according to LEX18 News.