Mayor Van Johnson extends mask mandate, talks recent gun violence

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Mayor Van Johnson on Tuesday extended Savannah’s mask mandate and talked about recent gun violence in the city.

Savannah’s mask mandate will remain in place through June 1, although Johnson said he’s eager to lift it once it’s safe to do so.

“The reasons for this extension are scientific, mathematical and specific to Savannah,” Johnson said.

The mayor mentioned Chatham County’s high community transmission index — now sitting at 127 based on cases per 100,000 residents — as one reason. He also mentioned the relatively low percentage of Savannahians that are fully vaccinated (only 28%). That means 66% of residents have yet to receive one dose, and 72% are not fully vaccinated.

Johnson said recently, the mass vaccination site at the Savannah Civic Center was administering only 50 doses a day. It’s capable to administer more than 1,000 daily.

“That’s the issue — if herd immunity is 70% and we’re nowhere near herd immunity,” Johnson said. “And we have people coming from all over the world into Savannah. Our hotels are being oversold, people are all in our streets. You’ve seen them.”

Recent data also shows an uptick in hospitalizations in Chatham County.

Watch the mayor’s full press conference:

Meanwhile, Johnson says many city operations will start slowly transitioning back to normal.

The city will be offering summer camps again, and city employees will return to in-person work by the end of May.

“Certain facilities will continue to require temperature checks to enter, and reduce capacity limits will be enforced,” Johnson said. City employees will return to their offices on May 24 but will continue socially distancing and wear masks.

For more information on the youth summer camps, click here.

Johnson also touched on the recent gun violence in Savannah and is set to host a press conference Friday where he’ll announce a new crime fighters task force.

“Gun violence involving people who are familiar with each other continues to be an issue, not only in Savannah but across the country,” Johnson said. He visited scenes of gun violence recently to give support to the victims’ families and said he hopes the new task force can address those issues.

“I make it a point to be there because it’s important that people know that this is not — it should never become ordinary. It shouldn’t be another day in Savannah,” the mayor said.

When asked if he fears gun violence will become the new normal, Johnson said: “No, and in Savannah, crime is not normal.”

“Overall crime, in fact, it has gone down,” he added, “and we don’t want it to become the norm.”

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