From Bill Freeman

Throughout its history, Nashville has been a strong crossroads where people have gathered for trade and other social activities. In recent decades, we have become known for music, sports, tourism, logistics, health care and more. We attract strong, established businesses right alongside new and trendy ones. 

Not too long ago, we were regularly ranked — as a February CNBC article did — as one of the top 10 cities to move to. We must wonder whether those kinds of rankings will hold true in the near future. In the midst of COVID-19, our city, state, nation and world are being impacted. Things will change, even after the greater threat of the virus has passed. 

Just as 9/11 took its toll on everything, from our personal lives to the way our national security operates, COVID-19 will change us also. It affects us at every level, from our physical and emotional health to our intellectual and financial well-being. Yet many still dismiss the pandemic’s seriousness. 

Since its entry into the U.S., the coronavirus has killed more than 42,000 Americans as of April 20, and that’s with virtually every type of gathering place closed. As of Monday, Tennessee had recorded 7,280 cases with 152 deaths, 20 of which took place in Metro Nashville. The number of cases jumped by more than 300 in a span of 24 hours. 

This is not going away. We have no vaccine, and no one knows when we’ll have one. 

Intellectually, we may understand the situation — but emotionally, many of us are plummeting. Some are saddened from being separated from loved ones, while others are angrily fighting for their rights, unphased by the insidious nature of this virus’s transmission. In denial perhaps, some think we can resume “normal” activity with little consequence. 

Those people are wrong. 

Financially, we don’t know if the recovery will be fast or slow, or both. Some areas may bounce back more quickly than others. In Nashville, our hotel and tourism business is reeling, with events like March’s Southern Women’s Show, June’s CMA Fest and July’s NAMM Show all canceled. The CMA Fest draws tens of thousands of attendees to Nashville each year, with an economic impact of $65 million in 2019 alone. According to reports, nearly 600 meetings and conventions had been canceled as of March 31, with lost direct spending of about $187 million. Nashville is projected to lose $500 million in revenue before the end of April. 

Universities are suffering, as potential students are unable to visit campuses to make matriculation decisions, and enrollment numbers and housing income is deteriorating. Well-endowed universities can tolerate such hits, but smaller ones cannot. 

Nashville is Music City, but bars and music venues are closed, musicians and artists are without work, and as a community, our hands are tied. Artists are wisely turning to their social media networks for support. But speculation is that the music industry globally could lose well over $5 billion in revenue as concert and festival cancellations continue. In football season, if still under current protocols that limit congregating in large groups, there will be no arena crowds. Millions upon millions of dollars normally generated for the teams, universities, vendors and communities will be lost. 

Even if President Trump’s three-phase reopening plan is immediately implemented here, we are still six weeks away from being able to gather in larger groups and from all the final “at-home” protocols being removed. Further, the president’s plan stipulates implementation should begin in only areas where virus numbers have been going down for at least 14 days. Our numbers are still climbing. 

What will happen when we reopen? How will things change? 

Some experts say continued social distancing for months or even years will be a must if we are to avoid another resurgence. Others say another wave of the pandemic is inevitable, especially if regulations are relaxed too soon. Citizens fear pandemonium or violence if we are kept restricted for too long, and more fear the possibility of being headed for another Great Depression.

We have no idea. Some will be fearful and stay fearful. Some will stay angry, and some will continue to go about their day as if nothing has happened — until it happens to them. 

Whatever happens, we’ll evolve and adjust to whatever changes we need to make to protect our community and our families, just as we did after 9/11. As University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban says: “One thing about championship teams is that they’re resilient. No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity.” 

Nashville is just like that. We always find a way.

Bill Freeman

Bill Freeman is the owner of FW Publishing, the publishing company that produces the Nashville Scene, Nfocus, the Nashville Post and Home Page Media Group in Williamson County.

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