Metro Health director opposes mask mandate, some city council members still pushing for one

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On Thursday, Metro Nashville Public Health Director, Dr. Gill Wright, penned a letter outlining his opposition to a city-wide mask mandate.

The letter came after Metro City Council passed a resolution last week urging MDPH to implement a mandate as COVID cases rise in Tennessee.

In the letter, Dr. Wright says the Metro Public Health Department is following CDC recommendations, which do not presently include mandates.

“At present the CDC does not require mask mandates. It does strongly encourage the wearing of masks indoors. MPHD unequivocally agrees. Masks should be worn indoors in all public spaces in which people mingle in close quarters for more than a few minutes.”

The letter also said the last time there was a city-wide mask mandate, COVID-19 vaccines were not available. The only tools the community had to fight the virus were masks and social distancing. Just under 54 percent of Davidson County was fully vaccinated as of Thursday.

According to the CDC website, Tennessee currently has the highest number of new cases per capita and the highest 7-day positivity rate in the country. Councilwoman Joy Styles says that alone should be enough to impose a mask mandate. She called Dr. Wright’s letter “garbage” and “negligent.”

“This isn’t political; this is about lives,” Styles said.

On the flipside, Councilman Steve Glover was pleased to see that Dr. Wright is not planning on implementing a mask mandate and doesn’t think the city council should either.

“Let’s let people be responsible. People are responsible. I think everyone does understand that there’s seriousness about this illness. This is a disease. We know it can spread very easily. But to do a mask mandate by the city council? Man, that is beyond government overreach,” Glover said.

Tracking COVID in Tennessee
📊 COVID-19 cases among TN school-age children
📊 Tennessee’s Current COVID-19 hospitalizations
📊 New COVID-19 cases and deaths reported by month

Weeks ago Councilwoman Styles introduced a bill that, if passed by Metro Council, has the power to issue a city-wide mask mandate without the approval of the health department.

“When the health department does not do their job, we are a body that can then look at what can we do if the body that should be handling this isn’t,” Styles said. “What we are allowing are for people to get sicker. People to go into ICU and to potentially die. I don’t want that on my conscience and quite frankly I don’t think the other 39 of us [council members] should have to live with that either.”

The bill requires two more readings at council before it could pass next month. Glover says he will be voting against it.

“I think so much involved with COVID is government overreach right now. look there’s nobody on this planet that doesn’t realize it’s a serious illness. Nobody is denying that, but what we’re saying is simply this, the government does not need to stick its finger or its nose into everybody’s business constantly,” Glover said.

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