NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Mayor John Cooper said the majority of new COVID-19 cases reported are being traced to patients' work or home.

"The new cases are due to widespread community transmission," Cooper said during Thursday's weekly coronavirus press briefing.

Cooper said Metro Public Health Department traced the 5,002 cases reported in October. He said 31% of the cases reported were traced to workplace and 30% were traced to homes.

Mayor John Cooper said today that 61% of COVID-19 cases reported in Nashville this month were spread through workplaces and homes.

"Work transmission can happen when coworkers aren't wearing masks when in meeting or unloading a truck together. Anytime you're sharing air there is a risk," said Cooper.

Household transmission has also been a common way of spreading the virus.

"We can unintentionally expose our family members at the dinner table or watching a movie on the couch," said Cooper.

Cooper said this is especially concerning with the holidays approaching.

"As we move into the holiday season, this is especially important. Being casual and not wearing a mask this weekend with your friends can put your older family members at risk later," he said.

Cooper said travel accounted for 13% of October's cases.

"We're talking about attending an out-of-state wedding or visiting with friends at the beach," said Cooper. "As we've seen all too often with tourists coming into our city, it's easy to feel like the rules don't apply when you're on vacation and people can easily pick up the virus while with friends on a trip and bring it back to their family, friends and coworkers.

"Spread comes not necessarily from travel itself, but from being too relaxed at the destination."

On Thursday, Metro Public Health reported 262 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths, an 87-year-old male and a 47-year-old female, both with underlying health conditions. Metro's rolling 7-day average is 221, which hasn't been that high since July.

Cooper urged residents to continue to wear a mask and praised neighboring counties for reinstating mask ordinances.

Vanderbilt recently released a report that said the counties without mask mandates have the highest hospitalizations for COVID-19.

"I'm glad for the new mask mandates," said Cooper. "One or two counties can't fight this alone."

Montgomery, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties have reinstated mask mandates in the past week.

Tennessee counties with and without mask mandates

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed an executive order allowing county mayors in 89 of Tennessee's 95 counties to institute a mask mandate in their counties. This order is set to end April 28, 2021.

County Mask Mandate (yes, no)
Cheatham No
Davidson Yes
DeKalb No
Dickson No
Henry Through March 27
Hickman No
Humphreys No
Jackson No
Maury No
Montgomery Through March 19, 11:59 p.m.
Putnam No
Robertson No
Rutherford No
Sumner Through April 28
Tennessee (statewide) No
Van Buren
Williamson No
Wilson Yes

Dr. Alex Jahangir, chairman of the Metro Nashville Coronavirus Task Force, said capacity at Nashville's nine hospitals remained above 90%.

Hospital bed availability is 6% at Nashville's hospitals and 13% for Middle Tennessee. ICU bed availability is 12% at Nashville's hospitals and 13% for Middle Tennessee facilities. There are 199 currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest reported since July 23.

Health officials are concerned with the lack of available beds in area hospitals because of an increase in COVID hospitalizations.

"Nashville's hospitals, our three major systems and Nashville General, have spoken up very strongly," said Jahangir.

Jahangir said some hospitals may be doubling up beds, but currently there are no plans to open the overflow facility at Nashville General Hospital.

Hospitals are also delaying some elective procedures because of capacity.

"Elective procedures are only so elective," said Jahangir, who said Williamson Medical Center in Franklin and Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia had stopped elective procedures.

"I am always worried, but have a lot of confidence. They are on top of it so strongly," said Jahangir. "We are worried. We are doing all the things we know to do."

The Tennessee Hospital Association said on Wednesday that hospitalizations were at an all-time high during Gov. Bill Lee's weekly update.

Dr. James Hildreth, president and CEO of Meharry Medical Center, said reports show that 90% of people are not being diagnosed with COVID that have the virus.

"Unless you are interacting with people in your bubble, wear a mask," said Hildreth. "Nine out of 10 people who have this virus may not be aware that they have it."

Mayor John Cooper and other health officials provide an update on Nashville's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Nancy Amons is an award-winning member of the News4 Investigates team. She has been breaking stories in Middle Tennessee for more than 20 years.

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