Update: Report Claiming Nashville COVID Coverup Retracted

Nashville Mayor John Cooper

UPDATE: The Fox Nashville story aggregated in this article has been disputed by fact checkers, and the local outlet has retracted and deleted the story. This article’s headline has been updated to note this development. Breitbart News has not independently verified this story, and we encourage readers to check Nashville news outlets for updates to it. Our original writeup continues below.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper (D) hid data on coronavirus infections emerging from bars and restaurants in Lower Broadway, an entertainment district famous for live country music and honky-tonks, because the numbers were too low, leaked emails unveiled this week show.

In July, Cooper explicitly singled out bars as an infection risk in Nashville when justifying his decision to reverse the city’s reopening plans, saying they were the source of a “record number of clusters” of new infections amid the spike in cases at the time, the Tennessean revealed.

Nevertheless, when responding to this week’s explosive revelations, the mayor denied withholding information. He appeared to shift blame to U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House, telling reporters on Thursday that guidance from federal officials led to the bar and restaurant closures.

“We took action, we took action ahead of time, and in response to careful information sent to us by the White House and it has been effective,” Cooper told reporters Thursday when Fox 17 Nashville questioned him about his decision.

“The fact that you didn’t have a high case count … does not mean it wasn’t a high priority,” he added.

In emails between the mayor’s senior advisor and the health department obtained by Fox 17 Nashville, officials discussed how to hide the low number of cases linked to bars and restaurants.

Fox 17 reported Wednesday:

On June 30th, contact tracing was given a small view of coronavirus clusters. Construction and nursing homes were found to be causing problems with more than a thousand cases traced to each category, but bars and restaurants reported just 22 cases.

Leslie Waller from the health department asks [via email on June 29], “This isn’t going to be publicly released, right? Just info for Mayor’s Office?”

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

When asked by an intrepid Fox 17 reporter about rumors that officials had only traced about 80 cases (of a total of over 20,000) to bars and restaurants in Nashville, Health department official Brian Todd asked his colleagues via email on July 30, “Please advise how you recommend I respond.”

An unidentified health official wrote in an email:

My two cents: We have certainly refused to give counts per bar (i.e. # cases per bar cluster) because those numbers are low per site, and there are data release standards prohibiting the release of a total count that is less than 10 per small geographic area.

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.”

The mayor and his spokesman appeared frustrated when questioned about the emails Thursday, Fox 17 reported:

Fox 17 confirmed the authenticity of the emails via Metro Nashville council member Steve Glover.

Glover had a city staff attorney inquire about the emails after the mayor’s office and the health department refused to answer Fox17’s questions about the messages without a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The council member accused the mayor’s office of a cover-up.

“They are fabricating information,” Glover told Fox 17. “They’ve blown their entire credibility … Its gone, I don’t trust a thing they say going forward …nothing.”

“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 added.

Donald Trump Jr. noted on Twitter that the Democrat mayor knowingly lied about the data to justify shutting down bars and restaurants.

In the wake of the explosive revelations, Cooper announced Thursday he was easing restrictions on bars ahead of plans to move to the third phase of the city’s reopening plans on October 1.

However, bars and restaurants are only allowed to operate at limited capacity and hours as part of the ongoing coronavirus-related restrictions imposed by the mayor,

Public health officials have cited several restaurants for violating coronavirus-related restrictions.

“We’re not interested in just being punitive and issuing citations,” Hugh Atkins, Metro Public Health Department’s environmental health services director, declared in June, the Tennessean reported. “We want them in compliance.”


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