Nashville official wants nearby counties to order masks worn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — As Nashville's coronavirus cases continue to surge, a city official on Tuesday called on the mayors of surrounding counties to require masks in public, saying the problem needs to be addressed regionally.

“There has been an increase in cases among all our neighboring counties," Mayor John Cooper said in a Tuesday news conference. Cooper singled out Rutherford, which has more cases than Hamilton, home to the state's fourth largest city, and Sumner, which Cooper said has "recently been forced to place ambulances on diversion due to a record number of hospitalizations.”

Nashville issued a mask order June 29, but surrounding counties, which don’t have their own health departments, were not allowed to issue their own orders until Friday, when Gov. Bill Lee granted them that power.

“Every county touching Nashville is now above the threshold for acceptable disease transmission," Cooper said. So far Williamson, Sumner and Montgomery have issued mask orders, he said, adding, “We will continue to work with our regional and state partners on a coordinated response.”

Metro Coronavirus Task Force Chair Dr. Alex Jahangir went further.

“We must fight this virus as a region,” Jahangir said, calling on all the mayors of surrounding counties to follow the example of those that have already issued mask orders. “The life and well-being of your community and ours is on the line."

Meanwhile, two rural Tennessee counties were recording the highest case rates in the country Tuesday, according to data complied by The Associated Press. Trousdale County had 1,498 cases out of a population of 9,573. The county houses a state prison and that had a large outbreak in early May, but Tennessee Department of Correction spokesperson Dorinda Carter said there were only two active cases at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center as of Tuesday.

Lake County had 694 positive cases out of a population of 7,526.

Tennessee recorded 1,359 new cases Tuesday and 12 new deaths, bringing the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in Tennessee to 665.

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.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.