SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – The Mayor of Savannah held a meeting Tuesday with other department heads to discuss their plans for reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Mayor Van Johnson said at this time, he is not enforcing a city-wide lockdown. However, he is pleading with families to quarantine voluntarily. He said it’s important to decrease exposure not only for the elderly but also for the 2,400 city employees who cannot work from home.
“Trash still has to be picked up. Fires still happen. Law enforcement is still necessary. Bills still have to be paid, for every function, there’s somebody, a city employee who is responsible for ensuring that these things happen,” said Mayor Johnson.
At the meeting, Chief Roy Minter, of the Savannah Police Department, said he is making sure all law enforcement officers have bio-hazard kits in their patrol cars. This includes gowns, goggles, hand sanitizer and other hygiene products. He also said he has canceled all non-essential training and moved patrol briefings online.
Chief Roy Minter and Chief Derik Minard, of the Savannah Fire Department, both said they are coming up with contingency plans in case one of their own contracts the virus.
“On the fire trucks, we’re carrying more hand sanitizer, wipes, we have masks for the patients, goggles, so we’re just taking care of our own,” said Chief Minard.
The Fire Prevention Bureau is also limiting inspections for new construction projects, without hurting new businesses.
The mayor is asking families to reduce their contact by postponing large gatherings, such as weddings or funerals. Mayor Van Johnson is also encouraging places of worship to offer services online.
The city manager, Pat Monahan, said they are expanding the 311 call center to add about another 10 operators. The city is closing down the adult daycare center, community centers, the Savannah Resource Center and the Cultural Arts Center. The Savannah Civic Center is postponing all events through the end of the month.
The mayor said he is hesitant to put families’ livelihoods at risk by shutting down restaurants. Instead, he would rather business owners provide safe alternatives.
“I mean, there are thousands of Savannians who this is how they feed their families.” (…) z’No doubt about it, they are hurting, and it’s reasonable to expect layoffs of staff are on the way which already exacerbates the problem that we have,” said Mayor Van Johnson.
Mayor Johnson said the Small Business Assistance Corporation (SBAC) has federal funds available to help small businesses. The recovery loan program will provide immediate financial aid, up to $50,000, to qualified borrowers to replace lost or manage excess inventory, provide cash for payroll or to resume normal commercial operations disrupted by the closing.
The mayor is also encouraging landlords not to evict tenants, and he’s working with homeless shelters to help those without the means to keep themselves healthy.
City Council will begin meeting online and the State of the City is postponed.