Health Board Orders Mask Mandate in Nashville

With the latest outbreak of COVID-19 on the decline, Metro Council has deferred efforts to impose another indoor mask mandate.

Citing lackluster support, District 32 Councilmember Joy Styles, who authored the bill, tells The Tennessean she paused the proposed ordinance in part due to votes lost in fear of Republican state legislators retaliating against the city in a special session later this month.

The proposed mask mandate had passed its first and second votes on increasingly slim margins after Metro Health Director Gill Wright declined to impose one through his emergency powers, despite pressure from the council to do so. 

At the time, Wright cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their inability to make effective progress through a mandate at a hyper-local level without surrounding counties participating as well. He said the department’s efforts are better focused on increasing vaccination rates, which are among the highest in the state at approximately 55 percent of residents fully vaccinated. 

In a tweet on Tuesday evening, Styles said deferring the bill was “just painful” and that implementing a mask mandate would build on recent progress to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help subside the outbreak through winter. 

“Flu, plus COVID is coming," she said. "Doctors and nurses are still begging for the mandate, and they are seeing first hand what COVID is doing to our residents.”

Update: A previous version of this story stated that the bill was withdrawn. It has in fact been indefinitely deferred. According to Councilmember Styles, "An indefinite deferral means that it can be brought back at another time and still be on third reading." We regret the error.

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