Mayor Van Johnson: Mask mandate remains, CDC messaging ‘flat’

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Mayor Van Johnson doubled down on his decision to keep the city’s mask mandate Tuesday.

The latest messaging on masks and social distancing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for those fully vaccinated is “flat,” he said during his weekly press conference.

Johnson said there’s confusion from Americans following the CDC’s abrupt change in the guidance issued last week. He reiterated that the new guidelines only apply to those who are fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks have passed since receiving their final dose of vaccine.

Currently, 30% of Chatham County residents are fully vaccinated, and a total of 186,000 doses have been administered in the county.

Johnson said he believes vaccine hesitancy is rooted in distrust in medicine, misinformation, lack of access and age differences. He also said the recent CDC messaging may have incentivized people to not get vaccinated.

With less than a third of residents vaccinated, Johnson said residents remain unsafe.

“That means in this room right now… that means we’re not safe.”

He also said he first learned about Chatham County’s decision to remove their mask mandate from a journalist, which he said was “disappointing” considering the record of working closely with the county.

Watch the mayor’s full press conference:

“We were very thoughtful and deliberate in how we went into the mask mandate; we want to be thoughtful and deliberate in how we come out of it,” Johnson said, adding noticed more mask-less people in the city this past weekend.

Johnson said another driving force of the mask mandate is to protect those in Savannah’s service industries because of their contact with visitors. He said without knowing where visitors are coming from and whether they had been vaccinated is a cause for concern.

“I want to protect them. Who speaks for them? And so if wearing a mask, mandating a mask…helps provide them an additional level of protection, then I think it’s well worth it,” Johnson said.

The latest renewal of the city’s mask mandate keeps the order in place until 11:59 p.m. on Memorial Day. Johnson said if vaccination rates go up, there may be no need to extend it.

Looking ahead, the mayor said he sees the Fourth of July as being the most normal day in Savannah since the pandemic began.

Chatham County’s community transmission remains moderately high, reporting 74 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 14 days, according to the Coastal Health District. This marks a week straight that Savannah has remained below a high transmission rate.

The latest data shows 23 hospitalizations across Chatham County, as low as it was in June 2020, before the first surge in hospitalizations.

Savannah has three mass vaccination sites at the Gulfstream Campus, Savannah Civic Center and the Armstrong Center at Georgia Southern University. For local vaccine information, click here.

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