NewsNewsChannel 5 Investigates


Tennessee should cut restaurant capacity, limit bar hours, White House task force says

COVID-19 spread 'has become deeper and unyielding'
Avo restaurant
Posted at 2:15 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 15:15:44-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee should dramatically slash indoor dining and limit bar hours for virtually the entire state, the White House Coronavirus Task Force recommends in its latest weekly report.

"With almost all counties in the red zone and an increasing number of nursing homes, now 50%, with at least one positive staff member, mitigation and messaging efforts need to be further strengthened as other states have recently done," the report says.

"Effective practices to decrease transmission in public spaces include limiting indoor restaurant capacity to less than 25% and limiting bar hours until cases and test positivity decrease to yellow zone."

That latest recommendation represents an enhanced emphasis from previous weekly reports that had suggested indoor restaurant capacity be limited to less than 50% and did not specifically mention bars.

Eighty-one of Tennessee's 95 counties, including every county surrounding Nashville, are currently listed in the red zone.

Another 11 counties, including Davidson County, are in the orange zone, with two other counties in the yellow zone and one in rural, upper East Tennessee that's not classified.

The White House report for the state notes that "over the past month, the spread in Tennessee has become deeper and unyielding."

"Week over week increases in hospitalizations, reported limited bed availability, and increasing deaths correlate with Halloween and related activities," it observes.

"With Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays, Tennesseans must understand the COVID-19 situation statewide. Serious messaging and action is needed from state leadership; recommending Tennesseans wear masks in public settings communicates the current risk level."

Among the other recommendations:

  • "Start testing to identify and isolate asymptomatic silent spreaders - those who have the virus, feel fine, and are unknowingly spreading it. Incentivize people under 40 years to get tested."
  • "Conduct active testing in school for teachers and students where cases are increasing. In accordance with CDC guidelines, masks must be worn by students and teachers in K-12 schools."
  • "On university campuses, students are letting their guards down with Thanksgiving break less than a week away.... If they are going home, they should follow CDC holiday guidelines for protective behaviors."
  • "Continuously monitor testing and contact tracing capacity in all counties to ensure rapid turnaround of test results (within 48 hours) and that all cases are immediately isolated and full contact tracing is conducted (within 72 hours of testing).

As NewsChannel 5 Investigates previously revealed, the White House task force had backed off a recommendation on Oct. 11 that "a statewide mask mandate must be implemented."