Nashville rolling back reopening after virus surge
Workers administer COVID-19 tests at a drive-through facility set up in the Williamson County Agricultural Center, Thursday, July 2, 2020, in Franklin, Tenn. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a stern warning to the public Wednesday as Tennessee registered its highest daily increase in positive COVID-19 tests for the third time in a week and a half. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE (AP) — Nashville will roll back its reopening in response to a sharp increase in coronavirus cases, Mayor John Cooper said Thursday.

The rollback is “tailored on what we’ve learned through contact tracing investigations over the past several weeks,” Cooper said during a weekly briefing. It includes closing all bars for a minimum of 14 days beginning on Friday. Event and entertainment venues also will be temporarily closed, and restaurants will revert from a 75% capacity limit to 50% capacity.

“It’s worth noting that Nashville’s rate of confirmed cases did decline while bars and restaurants operated at 50% capacity in May,” Cooper said.

Nashville also directed the Convention and Visitors Corporation to cancel its July 4 fireworks display. Instead, a local television station will air a special showcasing local artists and previous years’ displays.

Dog parks, skate parks, basketball courts, playgrounds, recreational leagues and pools are still allowed to operate, since no outbreaks have been traced back to them, Cooper said.

The city reported 608 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a one-day record, Cooper said.

Nashville joined Memphis in moving last week to require people to wear face masks in many public settings.

Shelby County Public Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said during a Thursday briefing that she is concerned growing case numbers there could be exacerbated if residents don’t social distance and wear masks over the July 4 weekend. She also said reporting delays for positive tests are making contact tracing more difficult for the department.

Jonathan Mermin, a rear admiral with the U.S. Public Health Service has been in the city for several days, providing technical assistance and guidance. Speaking during a the briefing, Mermin said it was “a pivotal time to do everything possible both as a community and as individuals to prevent transmission.”

Members of the public should wear a covering over their noses and mouths when they can’t social distance, avoid crowds and limit gatherings to 10 people, Mermin said. If everyone follows this simple guidance, he said, the virus’s spread can be reversed.

Meanwhile, Tennessee on Thursday reported 22,256 new jobless claims for the week ending June 27. Total claims were at 262,224. That’s down from a high of 325,095 for the week ending May 9. Tennessee reported a record-high unemployment rate in April, and the rate in May was also in double digits.

Tennessee reported 1,575 new cases on Thursday and 11 new deaths. In total, at least 620 people have died from the coronavirus in Tennessee.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and even be fatal.