NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Active COVID-19 case counts have dropped since the Metro Nashville Public Health Department lifted the county’s mask mandate.
However, health officials warn the next several weeks will be critical in knowing whether cases will make a comeback.
Residents like Kelsey Bryson were eager to visit downtown after nearly a year of pandemic restrictions.
“We’re from here; we live kind of all over the outskirts of the city of Nashville and we’re excited to come back down and enjoy Nashville,” Bryson said.
Likewise, businesses were grateful to see crowds return to areas like the Gulch after the mandate was lifted.
“It was a really hard year for a lot of businesses and those that could hang on and reopen, you know was a great thing,” Birdie’s Frozen Drinks owner Toby Rose said.
Since the mandate was lifted on May 14, Metro health officials report a gradual drop in COVID-19 cases.
“We’re slowly going actually down in our overall number; we’re hoping that continues,” said Dr. Gill Wright, Interim Medical Director of the Metro Public Health Department.
Metro Public Health reported 923 active COVID-19 cases the day the mask mandate was lifted. One week later, on May 21, the department reported 845 active cases. Metro has also seen a considerable drop in cases compared to last month. On April 23, the department reported 1,548 active cases.
“Taking the mask mandate away basically gives accountability back to the individual that’s not vaccinated to wear their mask if they’re going to be where they think there is a high exposure risk,” Wright said. “Taking the mask mandate away, it doesn’t affect those people that are vaccinated. It’s those that aren’t that are the concern.”
As of Friday, 39 percent of Davidson County residents had been fully vaccinated, according to Metro Health.
“If I wasn’t vaccinated, I would definitely still be wearing a mask,” Nashville resident Bailey Lethgo said. “My dad has terminal cancer, so I understand the benefits of wearing a mask, but as a vaccinated person I feel like I’ve earned the right to not wear a mask.”
Rose said despite all the challenges businesses have faced over the last year, he expects to see business booming this summer.
“People are ready to be outside and the Gulch is packed; other areas of Nashville are packed and people are happy to get outside again,” Rose said. “And I think with the vaccine it’s relatively safe for everyone to do so.”
If COVID-19 case numbers take a turn for the worse, the health department has the authority to reinstate the mask mandate through the end of June.