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Mask mandate, capacity restrictions lifted in Nashville; what you need to know

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Posted at 7:04 AM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 10:49:57-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — After more than a year, capacity limits have lifted in Nashville, and as of Friday morning, the city's indoor mask mandate is no longer in effect.

MASK RESTRICTIONS EASED, BUT BUSINESSES CAN STILL OPT TO REQUIRE MASKS

In a major shift, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that it would ease its indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people. Read more: CDC says fully vaccinated Americans can go without face masks in most settings

While Metro’s mask mandate officially ended at 5 a.m., individual businesses can continue to set their own restrictions regarding the use of masks.

Thursday night, just hours after saying Metro’s indoor mask mandate would stay in place, Nashville health officials reversed course, saying they would not require masks for vaccinated people while indoors, matching the CDC’s guidance.

Metro's COVID-19 Task Force Director Dr. Alex Jahangir said the change was made after speaking further with local health experts. The Chair of the Board of Health, the Director of Health and members of the MPHD epidemiology team ultimately made the decision to end the mask mandate.

However, the concern remains as 57% of Nashvillians still have not been vaccinated.

Metro Nashville Public Schools said masks will continue to be required in all MNPS facilities, as well as during graduations, until further notice.

Masks are also still required at major retailers like Walmart, Target, and your employer can also still mandate that you wear a mask inside the workplace.

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.

Health officials said some fully vaccinated people may still choose to continue wearing masks and that's okay, adding they shouldn’t be criticized for it.

CAPACITY LIMITS LIFTED FOR BUSINESSES/VENUES

With all COVID restrictions lifted, businesses and event venues can now operate at full capacity. For restaurants, it’s been a long road because they've faced restrictions for 420 days.

The hospitality industry is the second-largest in Davidson County, employing more than 71,000 people. But as many people know, a lot of businesses are dealing with short staffing.

Nationally, more than eight out of 10 restaurants are not staffed at their pre-pandemic level. There is an app called GIGPRO that’s working to help get open jobs filled in Nashville, with 40 businesses advertising open shifts daily. The creator of the app says it works to connect businesses to workers to cover shifts when someone doesn’t show up, calls out sick or to fill the gap between understaffed and overstaffed. For owners who are interested in the app, you can learn how to post your gigs online here.

GRAND OLE OPRY AT FULL CAPACITY

The show that made country music famous will re-open to a full house for the first time in more than a year Friday night. There are 4,400 seats at the Grand Ole Opry House, and they hope to fill each one by showtime.

Dan Rogers, vice president and executive producer of the Opry, said after COVID-19 hit, the longest running Saturday night radio show was in danger of breaking its streak. So to keep the nearly 5,000 shows going and stay safe, they had to close the auditorium to the public.

"When the world seemed to stop last year, it was really important to us for everyone in Nashville and across the country to keep the Opry on the air on Saturday nights," said Rogers. "Because they managed to do it in World War II and during the Depression and presidential assassination and a pandemic can't stop us."

As a result, the Opry went virtual and on March 21, 2020, had a one hour acoustic show with Marty Stuart, Vince Gill and Brad Paisley. They sat socially distanced with a limited crew backstage and that set the course for the whole year.

IMPACT ON SALONS

Metro salons have been under restrictions for much longer than nearby counties. Last May, salons in counties that follow state guidelines were able to reopen a little earlier than ones in Nashville, who had to follow strict capacity guidelines over the past year.

Over time, salons were allowed to let more people in. For example, Oxana salon in Nashville did have to shut down temporarily and when they were open, they did make more accommodations for customers who wanted to remain socially distant.

Now even with the restrictions being lifted, it's up to business owners if they want require customers to wear masks.