The Center Square [By Vivian Jones]-
Less than six percent of cluster cases of COVID-19 reported in Nashville in the last eight months have been connected through contact tracing to bars, restaurants and gyms. But despite accounting for a small fraction of traced cases since March, those establishments still face strict operating restrictions.
Nashville officials lifted some restrictions last week as the city moved to a new phase of reopening. Restaurants and bars may now operate with up to 100 patrons per floor and 100 patrons outdoors, with an 11 p.m. closing time. Gyms and workout facilities continue to be limited to 50 percent capacity.
“In the middle of our new surge we rely on contact tracing more than ever, as we move forward,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said in a COVID-19 update last week. “This will help us track the spread of the virus, identifying and isolating potential super spreaders to help keep people safe.”
New data released by the Metro Public Health Department on Monday identified 165 clusters of COVID-19 cases in Nashville since March, accounting for a total of 2,965 cases in clusters of more than ten. Case counts for clusters of fewer than ten cases are not reported.
Of the 165 total case clusters, seven are connected to bars, four are connected to restaurants, and four are connected to gyms, accounting for fewer than 6 percent of all reported cluster cases since March. A total of 147 cases, plus seven clusters of fewer than 10 cases, can be traced to bars, gyms, and restaurants over the last eight months.
Meanwhile, long term-care facilities account for 43 clusters totaling more than 1,000 cases. Combined with congregate living facilities and correctional facilities, the three categories account for 70 percent of cluster cases reported by the public health department.
City officials have consistently said that all public health orders and stages of reopening have been data-driven.
“Our team tracks the data closely, our public health experts provide the best advice possible and then adjusts our response, based on informed best practices and metrics,” Cooper said.
Restrictions continue to take a toll on Nashville establishments. At least 25 restaurants in Nashville have closed permanently due to the economic impact of COVID-19, according to Eater Nashville.