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VOL. 44 | NO. 47 | Friday, November 20, 2020

Nashville limits gatherings to 8 people amid virus surge

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Nashville is tightening restrictions to fight the surging coronavirus by limiting gatherings to eight people, Mayor John Cooper announced Thursday.

Cooper's office said the change effective Monday applies to public and private gatherings, and aligns with the eight-person maximum dining party restriction at restaurants. Nashville's gathering limit has been 25.

Restaurants and bars can host up to 100 patrons per floor and per outdoor seating area.

Cooper urged people to follow the eight-person limit or to gather with only one other family group. He said applications for events larger than the limitation will get a stricter look over the next two weeks.

Additionally, indoor extracurricular events for Nashville public schools will be paused, Cooper said.

As the pandemic escalates throughout Tennessee and nationwide, Nashville has surpassed its July peak in cases with a 14-day average of 390 cases a day, or a seven-day average of 58 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, which is almost five times higher than in September, Cooper said.

Nashville has 362 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, up by more than 50% from Nov. 1, Cooper said. About one-third are from other counties, he added.

Statewide, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen from 2,226 on Nov. 4 to 4,546 on Wednesday.

In Shelby County — the state's largest by population — chief health officer Bruce Randolph said Thursday that a plan is under development for vaccine distribution.

A two-dose vaccine could be available in early to mid-December in the county that includes Memphis, Randolph said. The first people to receive the vaccine likely would be patients at hospitals with underlying conditions, health care workers and first response personnel, he said.

Teachers and day care workers would likely come next, followed by the general population, Randolph said.

With a COVID-19 vaccine drawing closer, public health officials across the country are gearing up for the biggest vaccination effort in U.S. history — a monumental undertaking that must distribute hundreds of millions of doses, prioritize who's first in line and ensure that people who get the initial shot return for the necessary second one.

The push could begin as early as next month, when federal officials say the first vaccine may be authorized for emergency use and immediately deployed to high-risk groups, such as health care workers.

Potential vaccines are still in the trial phase and have not been approved. They must be safe and effective before approval for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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

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