NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Davidson County reported the highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases on Thursday.
The Metro Public Health Department reported 688 new COVID-19 cases, raising the county's total to 13,440. Of the 688 new cases, the health department said 172 of the positive results came from a backlog of cases from mid to late June. The health department is now working with a new lab and expects to eliminate or significantly reduce future reporting delays.
Texas, California, Arizona, Florida and Tennessee were among the states that set a new single-day high of COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
The health department also reported eight new deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the county's total number of deaths to 132.
Mayor John Cooper said the increase in cases appear to be from performing non-essential activities, such as going to a bar, attending religious services, attending concerts or music events, eating at buffet-style restaurants or visiting amusement parks. He also said that since June 15 - the date Nashville's most-recent spike began - more of the positive tests have been in the 25-34 age range, not the older age groups.
"Our metrics are not going so well," said Cooper.
Five days after receiving his COVID-19 diagnosis, Darius Settles was dead. Just last month, he turned 30.
Cooper pointed out the death of Darius Settles, a 30-year-old with no existing health conditions.
"Those between the ages of 25-35 are sharply going up while infections in older adults appears to be going down," said Cooper.
"We have to go back to where were a couple months ago and double-up our efforts, which means get tested," said Dr. Alex Jahangir, Chairman of the Metro Coronavirus Task Force and Metro Health Board. "Stay at home if you can. If you must go out, wear a mask.
"A University of Washington study finds if 95% of our community would wear a mask, we would dramatically reduce our risk."
Nashville is currently on a modified Phase Two on the Roadmap for Reopening. The city closed all bars for 14 days last week to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
"The faster we can flatten the curve, the quicker we can reopen our economy," said Jahangir.
A rollback to Phase One isn't being considered now, but "all options are on the table," according to Jahangir.
"We did the mask mandate and went back to Phase Two, so let's see how this works," said Jahangir. "Wear the masks and we really need leadership from the surrounding counties and we need people to work with us. We want to save as many lives as we can in the city."
Students at Metro Nashville Schools will start the academic year by learning remotely, due to recent COVID-19 trends.
Metro Schools will be holding a press conference on Thursday afternoon to announce plans for reopening schools in August. President Donald Trump said Wednesday he wanted schools to reopen and would consider withholding federal funding to school systems that don't reopen.
"There's nothing more important than getting our schools back open," said Cooper. "We would welcome federal money. It will cost much more to reopen schools and provide the necessary resources to make that happen safely."
Metro Nashville Public Health has three assessment centers in the county - Nissan Stadium Lot N, Meharry Medical College and the former Kmart location on Murfreesboro Pike. The centers are open from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each weekday.
During Thursday's press conference, Cooper was also asked about the property tax increase that was implemented by Cooper and the Metro Council that has caused some businesses to lose money and close.
"It's terrible. It's awful, but it's necessary. The loss of revenue, the sales tax revenue, requires the shift in revenue otherwise you're going to have massive furloughing of the whole city government, which I do believe we need to get back to work," said Cooper. "The tax rate in Nashville is below what it was three years ago. It's terrible and couldn't be at a worse time for us to do this, but, as a city, we have to do this. We would run out of cash, can't play employees or any positions to get back to work. I get it. The history of Nashville budget practices and COVID put us in a hole and made us up the tax rate. It's unfortunate and a necessary thing do, but that's leadership."
Metro Public Health did not think the lag in receiving test results in recent days helped the spread of the COVID-19 virus. More than 300 cases reported in the last two days were from tests in mid to late June.
"If someone is going to get tested, they have an understanding of why," said Metro Public Health Department Director Dr. Michael Caldwell. "The overall message to everyone that you must assume you have COVID if you're testing. Wear a mask, keep your distance. Everyone single one of us should assume we can give each other COVID."
Jahangir added there is no excuse for the lab delays. The health department said it is now working with a new vendor.