NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Starting today, gatherings in Davidson County will be limited to eight people in public and private places, Mayor John Cooper announced Thursday.

"We could have a Thanksgiving super-spreader event. Please reconsider plans to gather with people outside of your household," Cooper said during Thursday's Metro Coronavirus Task Force weekly briefing. "In public or private settings, let's limit grouping to eight. The rule of eight needs to be our guide. Don't drop your guard just because you're with people you know."

Previously up to 25 people were allowed to gather without a permit from the Metro Public Health Department.

The new restriction doesn't affect gatherings that have already received permits. This includes fans at sporting events, such as the Tennessee Titans and Nashville SC and concerts at the Ryman Auditorium and other venues.

 Still, the health department will be stricter when evaluating new permits. 

"Gatherings may cluster groups of no more than eight, but keep those groups of eight isolated from each other," Cooper said.

"Thus far, none of the events approved have resulted in clusters," Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of the Metro Coronavirus Task Force, said.

"We look at criteria to evaluate," Metro Public Health Director Dr. Michael Caldwell said. "Of the event

Rule of 8 poster

Test turnaround time was at one to two days about two weeks ago, however, lines have gotten longer. 

“It’s about four or five days now. I know the city sites, and this is across all sites, the issue is there is a national reagent issue now," Jahangir said. "They are working to speed up the turnaround." 

On Thursday, Metro health officials gave out flu shots at selected testing sites.

“This is a great opportunity for us to test the feasibility of a drive-through vaccination plan," Jahangir said.

Cooper said Davidson County has surpassed the July peak of cases and is almost five times higher than it was in September.

There are currently 392 patients hospitalized in Davidson County, a 50% increase.

"Nashville, this is the curve that we must flatten," Cooper said.

The Metro Public Health Department reports that just 13% of hospital beds and 9% of intensive care beds are currently available in Middle Tennessee. Officials said one-third of those hospitalized in Nashville hospitals came from other counties.

"A state mask mandate has never been more important. This is not a one-county problem," Cooper said.

Gov. Bill Lee has resisted issuing a statewide mask mandate. However, he has issued an executive order allowing the county mayors in 89 of the state's 95 counties to issue mask mandates. Health departments in Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, and Sullivan can issue health orders.

Metro Public Health reported 471 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. The rolling average is now 390, up from 345. More than 41,000 people were tested in the last week, the most recorded since the pandemic began.


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