Nashville government officials announced today that restaurant dining rooms will be permitted to open for business Monday, though they will be forced to operate at half capacity.
The decision comes in spite of the fact that coronavirus cases have been on the rise. Dr. Alex Jahangir, who chairs the city’s coronavirus task force, says that he attributes the rise in cases partially to an increase in testing, according to a report in the Tennessean. Since May 1, the number of cases per day has ranged from 24 to 165, without a clear flattening or downward trend.
Nashville officials originally said they would wait until there was a 14-day trend of stability or decline in cases before reopening dining rooms. The decision to bring back dine-in kicks off the first phase of a reopening plan outlined by Nashville Mayor John Cooper in late April.
Facilities will have certain hygiene restrictions, and require employees and patrons to wear masks. Employees will have to be screened daily for symptoms, according to the report, and bar areas will remain closed. While retail operations will face similar restrictions to restaurants, other entities such as schools and gyms remain closed, and gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited. If cases worsen, the city may return to previous restrictions.
Restaurant dining rooms have started to reopen across the country in such states as Georgia and Texas. That decision comes with challenges to restaurants and to public safety: Many restaurants do not have the capacity to seat patrons a proper distance apart from each other, and social distancing measures cannot be easily practiced in restaurant kitchens. Limits on capacity and other measures also present financial challenges to restaurant owners as they weigh whether to reopen.