Proposed bill would allow Metro employees to issue citations for COVID-19 health orders

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — If a new bill passes, those not following Metro Nashville’s COVID-19 guidelines could get a written citation from any city employee.

“The biggest issue that I think we’re going to face as we reopen more is this not having many Metro workers on weekends and out on evenings. And right now, the work of the city at those odd hours is mostly done by MNPD, but they have all these other priorities. The bill passed its second reading last night, it’s up for it’s third and final reading at the next meeting in two weeks,” District 5 Councilman Sean Parker told News 2.

The idea behind the proposed ordinance is to lighten the load for Metro police and allow city employees to enforce COVID-19 health orders.

“What you’ll see is, a public works employee would go into a business and observe that they’re not maintaining social distance protocols, they would cite that business more than they would go in there and hand out a ticket to every single person,” Parker explained.

Some residents support the idea to reopen faster and safer.

“I just feel it’s the best thing for the city of Nashville, because we have grown so much, years ago we wasn’t this big, but now we’re like a metropolis,” said Kendall Lee, “Wear a mask people, it’s gonna be safer and better for us okay?”

Others said it’s a job best left to police. One resident told News 2, “Some employees have been assaulted by people who don’t want to wear masks, if you give a city council person the authority to do that, they may catch themselves in a bad situation that they’re not prepared to be in…. It’s probably best to leave law enforcement with law enforcement.”

So what’s it look like? It’s not just any Metro employee walking up to people on the street. The city employee would have to be deputized by the city in order to have the enforcement rights.

“The administration would have to explicitly empower that departmental staffer to have this citing power to be able to issue these civil citations,” Parker explained, “So, it’s not just you flip the switch and now everybody in metro gets to enforce guidelines.”

Parker added that they’re picturing staff like Public Works employees who are often out in the community at all hours of the day, seven days a week.

The civil citation would be similar to a parking ticket for things like not wearing a mask in public and over occupancy in businesses.

“Right now, we’re just counting on citizens submitting reports through HUB,” Parker said, “While that’s been effective in a lot of cases, I think being more proactive about ensuring safe social distancing as we reopen is a positive step.”

The bill passed its second reading Tuesday night and is up for it’s third and final reading at the next meeting in two weeks.

This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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COVID-19 in Tennessee

(This reflects what the TDH is reporting each day at 2 p.m. CST )

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