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Nashville Mayor’s Office, Health Department Concealed Low COVID Numbers Tied to Restaurants, Emails Show

National Review logo National Review 9/17/2020 Brittany Bernstein
a group of people sitting at a table in front of a store: A Florida bar is closed under a state declaration to help curb the spread of coronavirus disease, in Key West, Florida, March 17, 2020. © Carol Tedesco/Florida Keys News Bureau/Handout via Reuters A Florida bar is closed under a state declaration to help curb the spread of coronavirus disease, in Key West, Florida, March 17, 2020.

Officials in Nashville, Tn. concealed from the media how few coronavirus cases had been traced to bars and restaurants in the city, according to emails sent between the mayor’s office and the city’s health department. 

Emails obtained by FOX 17 News appear to show that the two offices seemingly conspired to conceal data showing that while construction and nursing homes led to more than a thousand cases each as of June 30th, only 22 cases had been traced to bars and restaurants. 

In a discussion of the numbers, Leslie Waller from the health department asked, “This isn’t going to be publicly released, right? Just info for Mayor’s Office?”

“Correct, not for public consumption,” replied senior advisor Benjamin Eagles.

The next month, in response to rumors that only 80 cases had been traced to bars and restaurants, a Tennessean reporter asked, “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?”

Health department official Brian Todd asked five health department officials for assistance in responding to the reporter: “Please advise how you recommend I respond. “

An unnamed sender responded, “My two cents. We have certainly refused to give counts per bar because those numbers are low per site. 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.”

A city staff attorney, at the instruction of council member Steve Glover, was able to verify that the emails are real, the report said. 

Glover accused the city of covering up the data and “fabricating information.”

“They’ve blown their entire credibility,” he said. “It’s gone, I don’t trust a thing they say going forward …nothing.”

The councilman said many bartenders, waitresses, and restaurant owners from downtown Nashville have reached out asking why officials wouldn’t release those numbers. 

“We raised taxes 34 percent 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 confirm or deny the report, but told FOX 17 News to file a freedom of information act request. 

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