SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Mayor Van Johnson reinstated additional COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, amid record-setting infection in Chatham County.
Johnson has revoked all permits for public events through Sept. 30 and no new permits will be issued until further notice. Community centers and most city buildings, including Savannah City Hall, will also be closed to the public until further notice.
The permit ban excludes weddings, but he said he’s asked wedding planners to adhere to strict social distancing and mask mandates.
Johnson said he asked organizers for the Savannah Jazz Festival and Savannah Philharmonic to consider virtual platforms for their concerts.
“These measures are admittingly inconvenient and uncomfortable, but again are taken as deliberate intermediary steps in lieu of more restrictive steps,” Johnson said.
The city’s mask mandate was also extended through Sept. 23. Last week, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order banning cities from enforcing mask and vaccine mandates in private businesses.
Johnson has been publicly criticizing Kemp over the past week and continued his criticism Tuesday saying “don’t try us, we believe very clearly that we have the standing” to enforce restrictions. He also said the state hasn’t done anything to help Georgia cities battle COVID.
“This is a race to the bottom that we’re trying hard, to seem, to win,” Johnson says.
Events at the Savannah Civic Center will also be canceled or rescheduled, according to the mayor. He also vowed to step up mask enforcement on trolleys.
Johnson said he’s asked religious leaders to revise their in-person worship services and consider going virtual as much as possible. Johnson says until COVID infections plummet, more restrictions are incoming.
“We have to have healthy people. Healthy people build healthy businesses, healthy businesses build a healthy economy. You don’t build a healthy economy with sick people.”
The city will make a decision about potentially adding more restrictions in mid-September, according to Johnson.
“We can work together or we can perish together. And I’m not trying to perish,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to do what we can to protect our citizens, do what we can to protect our employees, do what we can to protect our businesses and our communities.”
Johnson also said vaccine mandates for city employees are possible after the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine. The other two vaccines have been FDA approved for emergency use.
In hopes of increasing vaccination rates, the mayor said the city, Chatham Area Transit, Savannah-Chatham County Public School System and Chatham County are working on a vaccine incentive for employees.
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Watch the mayor’s full update: