Savannah mask order remains as CDC eases guidance, local doctors react

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – On the heels of new guidance issued for those who are fully vaccinated, Savannah City Council on Thursday approved the renewal of the city’s mask order.

Last week, Mayor Van Johnson signed off on the mandate, which extends the mask requirement until 11:59 p.m. on Memorial Day, May 31. The council’s approval makes it official.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fully vaccinated people can resume activities indoor and outdoor, large or small, without wearing a mask or social distancing.

But there are exceptions, including if a local requirement is in effect.

Even though the new CDC guidance is out, Mayor Johnson said the city will keep the mask mandate in place because not enough people are fully vaccinated.

“If only one person out of every three can take off their mask that is no incentive at all for the other two to get vaccinated which means our problem continues to persist,” Johnson said. “If we reach the 50 percent vaccination point I will repeal it.”

At the end of last month, Chatham County also moved to continue its mask ordinance. It’s the 12th continuation of the order and remains in place until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 30.

Local doctors are also reacting to the CDC’s new guidance saying people can finally breath after a tough fight this year.

“So we should really embrace today. I know I’ve been super cautious with my patients, but today is a day we’re going to celebrate,” Medical Director with Newnan Family Medicine, Dr. Cecil Bennett said.

The CDC says not only can fully vaccinated Americans remove their masks, they no longer need to social distance themselves from others. However, they’re still strongly encouraged to wear masks while on public transportation, in healthcare settings, or in businesses that require them.

“So we’re getting some reassuring evidence that the vaccine really is effective against these current circulating variants and preventing infection,” Chief Associate Medical Officer with Memorial Health, Dr. Stephen Thacker said.

Doctors say if you need another reason to get vaccinated, this is it.

“It’s obviously a huge step towards normalcy or life as we use to know it, but I think we also need to remind people and encourage people to use common sense,” Health Director with the Coastal Health District, Dr. Lawton Davis said.

Across the county, 30% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Statewide, 29% of Georgians are fully vaccinated.

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