Nashville’s health chief is shutting down some smaller “transpotainment” vehicles that are popular in downtown and Lower Broadway, the center of the city’s COVID-19 outbreak.  

Health Director Dr. Michael Caldwell amended a previous order that halts pedicabs, pedal carriages and limousines until at least July 31. 

The order does not shut down larger entertainment vehicles such as pedal taverns, party tractors and the like – which continue to operate at half capacity. Those vehicles over 10,000 pounds, are not under the Metro’s authority. 

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The revised order also ratifies the closure of bars until at least July 31, which officials announced earlier this week, when they said Nashville will remain in the current modified phase 2 for the “foreseeable future.”

The new restrictions come as officials attempt to curb the spread of infection in the city, where the coronavirus outbreak in Nashville has shifted to the city’s center, spreading among downtown residents and patrons of bars, honky-tonks and other crowded Lower Broadway businesses.

Heat maps for the health department shows the virus is spreading fastest and furthest in the downtown area, and leaders said the outbreak threatens to push hospitals to the brink in the coming weeks or months if left unchecked.

As the outbreak swells downtown, the city faces the virus on at least three fronts. Infections are rising among downtown residents, many of whom live clustered in the high-rise apartments of the Nashville skyline.

Contact tracing also backtracked spikes of new cases to bars, which prompted the mayor to close all bars for two weeks starting on July 3.

Despite the closures of bars, large crowds flocked to Lower Broadway on Fourth of July and weekends since, crowding in groups outside restaurants and on transpotainment vehicles. 

Caldwell has previously acknowledged the ongoing “challenge” of Nashville’s popular activity for tourists along the bar district, but has said pedal taverns and similar vehicles are preferable to bars because they are outside and therefore less likely to spread the virus.

“I’ve noticed that a number of them are not properly social distancing, they’re not wearing face masks and it is a concern that I have,” Caldwell said earlier this month. “We are going to continue to work on trying to find ways to get them to be more compliant.”

Mayor John Cooper earlier this year announced he would work with state lawmakers to give the city authority to regulate these vehicles, saying the “complete lack of local control” has created safety concerns and headache. 

The legislation, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Steve Dickerson moved along in state committee but never got a final vote. 

Yihyun Jeong covers politics in Nashville for USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE. Reach her at yjeong@tennessean.com and follow her on Twitter @yihyun_jeong.

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