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Leaked emails show Nashville mayor's office concealed virus information from the public

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 9/17/2020 Michael Lee
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Leaked emails show Nashville’s Metro Health Department and the mayor’s office attempted to withhold information from the public that strongly suggested COVID-19 wasn’t spreading through the city’s bars and restaurants.

“They are fabricating information," said city councilmember Steve Glover. "They’ve blown their entire credibility.”

“I don’t trust a thing they say going forward ... nothing," he added.

The emails between the mayor’s office and the health department discuss the low number of COVID-19 cases coming out of the city’s bars and restaurants and how to keep that information from going public.

“This isn’t going to be publicly released, right? Just info for Mayor’s Office?” asked Leslie Waller, an official from the health department, in one email.

“Correct, not for public consumption,” the mayor’s senior adviser, Benjamin Eagles, wrote back.

Contract tracing in late June showed that construction sites and nursing homes were seeing the worst virus spread in the Kentucky city, with more than 1,000 cases linked to each industry. Bars and restaurants, however, accounted for just 22 cases.

A month later, reporter Nate Rau asked the health department about rumors that only 80 virus cases originated from Nashville's bars and restaurants.

“The figure you gave of 'more than 80' does lead to a natural question: If there have been over 20,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in Davidson and only 80 or so are traced to restaurants and bars, doesn’t that mean restaurants and bars aren’t a very big problem?” Rau asked.

Emails show health department official Brian Todd asking how to respond to the question.

“Please advise how you recommend I respond,” Todd asked in an email.

“My two cents. We have certainly refused to give counts per bar because those numbers are low per site,” one response said.

“We could still release the total though, and then, a response to the over 80 could be because that number is increasing all the time and we don’t want to say a specific number."

Glover had a staff attorney reach out to the mayor’s office and the health department to verify the authenticity of the emails.

“I was able to get verification from the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Health that these emails are real,” the attorney said.

Glover said he has been contacted by many restaurant owners, bartenders, and staff asking why the city was trying to keep a lid on the numbers.

“We raised taxes 34% and put hundreds literally thousands of people out of work that are now worried about losing their homes, their apartments ... and we did it on bogus data. That should be illegal,” Glover said.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Washington Examiner.

Tags: Coronavirus, Nashville, Economy, News, Kentucky, Healthcare, Regulation, Restaurants

Original Author: Michael Lee

Original Location: Leaked emails show Nashville mayor's office concealed virus information from the public

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