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Nashville’s latest pandemic review recommends stronger coordination with the rest of Tennessee

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WPLN News
/
Stephen Jerkins
Nashville is praised in the pandemic review for the access to testing. For much of the pandemic, the Meharry Medical College ran three separate drive-thru sites.

A review of Nashville’s pandemic response gives the city high marks for how it handled COVID-19. But it finds room to improve coordination with the rest of the state.
Throughout the pandemic, Nashville and Memphis acted more aggressively than anywhere else — from masking and business restrictions to school protections and vaccine campaigns. But COVID doesn’t respect jurisdiction lines, says Dr. James Hildreth of Meharry Medical College, who was on the steering committee for the review.

“It didn’t matter how well we did in Nashville,” he says in an interview about the findings. “As long as people were bringing the virus to us from other places, it was going to be a challenge.”
Hildreth was part of the local steering committee that guided the pandemic review, which was overseen by former Sen. Bill Frist’s nonprofit Nashville Health and conducted by Avalere Health out of Washington D.C.
In the absence of stronger state leadership, the 74-page report recommends creating an advisory group that involves officials from all the counties in the Nashville metropolitan area. That includes Franklin and Murfreesboro. All the counties except for Davidson have health departments that are controlled by the state.
Nashville, along with five other urban counties, controls its own public health department. The report recommends they start coordinating more closely as well, since they tended to be more proactive than state officials.
“There’s an opportunity to improve all things related to messaging and communication,” says Avalere researcher Emily Belowich. “Establishing those standards early on for future public health emergency planning is going to be really important.”

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