- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2020

Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s office was put on the defensive with local Fox-17 reporter Dennis Ferrier on Thursday over the apparent suppression of COVID-19 data showing low risk of transmission of the disease in bar and restaurant settings.

Earlier this week Mr. Ferrier reported on a series of emails between the Democratic mayor’s senior staff and the Metro Health Department that revealed that contact tracing attributed only 80 cases of the virus to bars and restaurants out of roughly 20,000 for the area.

One email from late June shows a staffer in the mayor’s office instructing a health department official that the data was “not for public consumption” when told there had been just 22 coronavirus cases linked to bars and restaurants at that time.

Another email includes a July inquiry by Tennessee Lookout reporter Nate Rau asking a Metro Health official the following: “The figure you gave of ‘more than 80’ does lead to a natural question: If there have been over 20,000 positive cases of COVID-19 in Davidson and only 80 or so are traced to restaurants and bars, doesn’t that mean restaurants and bars aren’t a very big problem?”

The mayor’s office told Fox-17’s reporter that it would have to follow Freedom of Information Act protocol to verify the emails, although Metro councilmember Steve Glover confirmed their authenticity within an hour through a staff attorney.

“They are fabricating information,” Mr. Glover said Wednesday. “They’ve blown their entire credibility, Dennis. It’s 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.”

Mr. Cooper’s spokesman, Chris Song, fired back at Mr. Ferrier on Thursday during a press conference

“I wasn’t putting your team off,” Mr. Song said. “That is something our office cannot do. That is something that needs to go through the Metro Clerk’s office. I would have done that with any request of that nature. And when you asked for comment, there was absolutely no context for the comment that you requested.”

“When you call after the newscast and say ‘gee we wish we would have asked again’, I mean this isn’t high school, you’re not asking a girl out on a date again who said no,” Mr. Ferrier replied. “You didn’t answer. You said FOIA us, sir.”

Mr. Cooper eventually took the stage and vowed to resolve the issue.

“Come see me with any concern,” the mayor said. “We’ll get to the bottom of this.”

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