As COVID-19 cases rise, Mayor Johnson considers canceling future holiday celebrations

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah Mayor Van Johnson held his weekly press conference Tuesday ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The mayor asked the public to go to law enforcement when they see violence and crime happening in their community. He said he wants to work to implement programs, such as the old Savannah Impact Program, that will address violence in the city.

Johnson then discussed the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, again asking the community to avoid large gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He encouraged the public to only celebrate within their own household and suggested virtual family dinner. He said he plans to Zoom with his relatives on Thursday instead of gathering in person.

Johnson says you can’t argue with numbers — and when it comes to COVID-19, ours aren’t great.

As usual, Johnson is taking it week by week, but he anticipates when it comes to city events, there will be some tough calls to make.

“What I would hope people will recognize is their actions now affect the actions later,” said Johnson. “If we have a high rate of spread a high rate of infections over this holiday, that affects St. Patrick’s Day.”

Currently, the city is not issuing any event permits until Nov. 30, but Johnson expects to extend that through December.

He even says officials are beginning to seriously consider the safety risks of holding major events like the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade and St. Patrick’s Day in the coming months.

Coronavirus cases in Chatham County are on the rise. Johnson said the daily case rate per 100,000 people is at 16.2 cases, which is up from 11.2 cases just one week ago. This means, on average, per 100,000 people roughly five more cases were being reported a day, this week.

“Obviously it’s not the news people want to hear, but you know again, for us, I just think that public safety is our paramount responsibility.”

The mayor again encouraged everyone to keep washing their hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing.

This week, Johnson met with Georgia Public Health Director, Kathleen Toomey. He says she applauded his response to the pandemic but says a lot of unknowns lie ahead.

“For us, we are having some courageous conversations with the health district, without medical professionals,” said Johnson, “over the coming weeks you know we need to talk about January, we need to talk about February, and we need to talk about March.”

Johnson said the City of Savannah’s 2021 budget is in the works. Public hearings for the budget have been rescheduled to Dec. 10.

He also reminded anyone not yet registered to vote in the Georgia Senate runoff races to do so. The deadline to register is Dec. 7.

The mayor wrapped up his prepared remarks announcing that he has been selected as a presidential elector for President-elect Joe Biden. There are 16 across the state of Georgia, and Johnson said he is “elated.”

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