Nashville mayor to ease coronavirus restrictions on bars

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The mayor of Tennessee’s capital city says he plans to roll back restrictions that have shuttered bars, allowing them to reopen starting Monday with strict limits in place.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said Thursday that bars in the popular tourist destination could soon reopen to a maximum of 25 people if social distancing is possible at those levels.

Restaurants and bars will have to close by 10:30 p.m. and enforcement teams will be patrolling businesses to see whether they are complying with the various requirements, Cooper said.

The mayor said Nashville’s hospitality industry has been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, particularly small neighborhood bars and restaurants. Still, he said he hopes that a well-managed bar or restaurant will be better than a backyard party of 25 people, which he said “probably will have a more relaxed atmosphere.”

“We should adjust our response where we safely can, based on the best public health information available, to help businesses survive,” Cooper said.

Cooper in early July announced a rollback of Nashville’s reopening, including an order for bars to close again due to the heightened spread of the virus. Then in late July, Cooper moved to require restaurants, restaurants that have turned into bars during the pandemic and other businesses that serve alcohol to close by 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, two schools in Chattanooga have been closed after someone tested positive for COVID-19 at each school, officials said.

The Hamilton School District said the Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences and Loftis Middle School will be closed for cleaning Thursday and Friday, news outlets reported. School officials did not say whether it was students, teachers or staff who tested positive for the virus at each school.

The district resumed in-person classes this week under a hybrid schedule for the first time since the virus outbreak struck in March.

Nearly 65 school districts have started the school year as of Aug. 7, with the majority of them starting in-person classes, The Tennessean reported. At least 39 confirmed COVID-19 cases connected to schools have already been reported, according to the newspaper.

Williamson County Schools, Coffee County Schools and Blount County Schools, have already closed schools or altered schedules.

In Putnam County, more than 80 students and staff were quarantined after a student at Cookeville High School tested positive for COVID-19.

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