Monday, March 16, 2020

Board of Health Approves Declaration of a Public Health Emergency for Nashville/Davidson County In Response to COVID-19

Metro press release, 3/15/2020 - The Metropolitan Board of Health of Nashville and Davidson County held a specially called meeting Sunday at 5 p.m., at the request of Mayor John Cooper, where

members voted to approve a Declaration of a Public Health Emergency for Nashville and Davidson County.

The declaration guides Metro Public Health Director Dr. Michael Caldwell in the public health response to the presence of coronavirus COVID-19 in the community.

As of today, there are 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county. Health officials expect the number of confirmed cases to continue to increase. The Declaration of a Public Health Emergency takes effect immediately.

The declaration contains a reiteration of Mayor John Cooper’s announcement earlier in the day that bars on Lower Broadway and throughout Davidson County close until further notice, and that restaurants (defined as public facilities where the sale of food comprises more than 50 percent of revenue) limit their regular maximum seating to under 50 percent of capacity, capped at no more than 100 individuals allowed. Further, bar service at restaurants should be limited to 50 percent of capacity with no standing allowed.

“We understand these changes create a hardship, especially for businesses and their employees, and we hope it will be short lived,’’ Cooper said. ``As a priority, Metro Government will be focused on how to provide relief for local workers and address the inevitable hardship that these social distancing measures will have on local businesses. We are gathering information from state and federal officials on aid for businesses and workers. We will continue to communicate regularly and follow the recommendations of the Board of Health as this emergency evolves.”

The declaration approved by the Board of Health calls for assistance from the governor and the state Department of Health; advises citizens who have traveled to high-risk areas as defined by the CDC and who develop symptoms of illness to contact their health-care provider immediately; reminds physicians and other health care practitioners that any case of COVID-19 is required by law to be reported to the Department of Health; and further directs Dr. Caldwell to ``act as necessary’’ to maintain and protect the public health, prevent the spread of disease, and provide for the safety of the Metropolitan Government and its residents.

Rod's Commend:  I would assume there must be some authority given to the Health Department to take such action but I would like to know chapter and section that gives a local Health Department that authority. Surely there are limits to the Health Department's authority.  What may the Health Department do and what may it not do? Could it prohibit the Metro Council from meeting? Could the Health Department mandate a quarantine? Can the Health Department violate due process to enforce a decision? I don't know but local authorities should explain the source of their authority.

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