SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – At the start of the pandemic, Gov. Brian Kemp formed a COVID-19 task force.
A Savannah state senator and physician chairs one of the committees, but says the task force hasn’t met in six weeks despite a surge in cases.
Daily case counts are high but, they don’t tell the whole story.
“The numbers have actually plateaued, which is good,” said Republican Senator Dr. Ben Watson, a Savannah physician.
Data does support Watson’s optimism; from July 8 to July 21, the Coastal Health District reported 1,618 new cases in Chatham County. The next two-week period ending Tuesday — that number sat at 1,607 cases.
But Georgia isn’t out of the woods yet.
“Are we where we should be? Absolutely not and we need the numbers back down to where they were before,” said Watson. “That’s still important. The governor went around the state of Georgia with Dr. Kathleen Toomey in supporting, you know, wearing masks.”
Kemp appointed Watson to his COVID-19 task force back in March. As a local physician, he stands by the governor’s choice not to mandate masks statewide. He also holds strong opinions about local governments enforcing their own mandates.
“For me, from my perspective, if someone is politically saying we need a mandate and yet you’ve written no citations in restaurants, you’ve written no citations in barbershops,” said Watson, “in any places that he’s allowed you to do that’s pretty hollow in my opinion.”
However, as of July 15, the governor explicitly banned city governments from ordering people to wear masks anywhere, including restaurants and barbershops.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson continues to defy state orders saying science shows masks save lives.
“People that need that rule, businesses who need that covering of mandate will find that to be helpful as we get through this time,” said Johnson.
The Coastal Health District director says cases could be plateauing because of mask use.
“I am cautiously optimistic,” said Dr. Lawton Davis.
Coronavirus deaths in Chatham County are up by about 12% since last month. This week, as of Wednesday, the virus has killed 73 people, but bi-weekly case counts for the past month show a plateau.