SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Twenty-five deputized city marshals are on Savannah’s streets to encourage residents and visitors of the Hostess City to comply with Mayor Van Johnson’s citywide mask mandate.
Teams of two embark on the city’s ATV to scan for people who are not wearing masks. Marshals have the authority to issue court subpoenas, which can carry a $50 fine; however, their main priorities are education and compliance.
“On a normal day, I would not be riding around in an ATV,” said Nicole Bush, a deputized city marshal who has been tasked with leading the effort to enforce mask-wearing on the streets. ATVs with personnel responsible for the initiative have a sign on the back that says “COVID Response Team.”
“You hear the word enforcement, but the reality is, is that we just want people to comply,” said Susan Broker, the director of Savannah’s Office of Events, Film and Tourism.
Since marshals began policing the mandate last week, they have issued zero citations. Of hundreds of people they have spoken to, everyone has listened to instructions to put their mask on. So far, marshals have handed out 200 masks.
“They encounter situations such as enforcement and compliance on a daily basis,” said Bush. “But when you add that extra element of the pandemic, you get a little new territory and you’re not sure how they’re going to respond.”
Two Savannah Police officers — who are already assigned to the area — have been assisting marshals with compliance.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s donation of masks is fueling the effort to hand them out to people who do not have one.
City staff are focusing their compliance efforts within Savannah’s six downtown districts.
“We’re focusing on downtown right now because that’s where most pedestrian traffic is and we’re asking folks to do the right thing…put a mask on and do the right thing,” said Broker.
Because the effort is a direct response to COVID-19, Broker says the city is asking the federal government to compensate them for the initiative.