Dec 2, 2021 - COVID

Reviewing Nashville's COVID response

COVID-19 testing outside Nissan Stadium in 2020.
COVID-19 testing outside Nissan Stadium in 2020. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Tornadoes, floods and other disasters uniquely prepared Nashville for the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report analyzing the city's virus response.

  • "It set Nashville apart, this concept of Nashville Strong," Kristi Mitchell, a health care consultant who worked on the report, said during a Wednesday panel. "It's as if you had all the trappings ... all the pieces ready to pull the trigger to execute a plan."

Yes, but: The report also found Nashville's marginalized communities — including people of color, immigrants and homeless residents — were hit hardest by the pandemic, both physically and financially.

  • The authors called on city leaders to invest more in serving those communities.

Why it matters: A number of city officials agreed the real-time analysis of successes and failures could improve Nashville's ongoing COVID response.

  • "We're going to be dealing with it for a while, so let's get some best practices and learn from some of the mistakes that we've made and do better," Meharry Medical College president James Hildreth said in a podcast discussing the findings.

Between the lines: The report, produced through a partnership among several local organizations including former Sen. Bill Frist's group NashvilleHealth, listed a series of recommendations for improving the city's response to public health emergencies, including:

  • Develop plans for emergency testing sites that can open if the virus spikes again. Some elected officials criticized the city for being slow to expand testing after the Delta variant emerged.
  • Use socioeconomic data to map out neighborhoods where communities are likely to suffer the most during public health emergencies. The report notes early mass-testing sites "lagged in Nashville's diverse neighborhoods."
  • Look for ways to harness the new COVID infrastructure to tackle other health challenges, particularly among marginalized communities.

What they're saying: Alex Jahangir, chair of the Nashville Coronavirus Task Force, said during the panel discussion that the report was a valuable gut check moving into 2022.

  • "Let's use the lessons that we're learning to continue to improve how we're moving forward," Jahangir said. "I'm grateful that we have one potential roadmap for that."
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