SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Chatham County Commissioners met for the first time since Savannah reinstated its mask mandate inside city-owned buildings. The county is also requiring masks inside government buildings, as of Tuesday.
At least one county commissioner is taking issue with the reinstated mask mandates.
“In a free society, citizens get to choose to take various risks on a daily basis,” District 7 Commissioner Dean Kicklighter said. “You know, somebody might choose to walk on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon. The government shouldn’t ban all rope because somebody chose to do that.”
COVID-19 discussion was largely off the table during Friday’s 2.5-hour meeting. Toward the end of the meeting, Commissioner Kicklighter criticized Savannah Mayor Van Johnson for reinstating the mask mandate inside city buildings.
Most commissioners and guests were masked at the meeting. Kicklighter joined the meeting over Zoom, he said to avoid wearing a mask inside.
“I honestly didn’t show today because I cannot stand sitting in there suffocating with a mask over my face. And I definitely don’t want to do it when I don’t believe it’s necessary at all for people to do,” Kicklighter said.
COVID-19 numbers in Chatham County continue to rise. On Friday, the number of hospitalizations in the county topped 100 for the first time in more than five months, according to the health department.
Absent from Friday’s meeting was the usual update from the county health department. Kicklighter claimed the mask mandates infringe on the rights of vaccinated individuals.
Chairman Chester Ellis said requiring masks in government buildings is necessary to protect staff.
“This may be news to some of you, but we’ve had staff members, folks who work for us in our buildings, who are vaccinated but they tested positive,” Ellis said. “That’s why I made it mandatory for coming in the building.”
Kicklighter commended the chairman for not following Mayor Johnson’s lead in requiring masks in other facilities.
“Compared to our counterpart over there, I think you have not acted heavy-handed whatsoever,” he said. “But please don’t use him as a rule because he is, in my opinion, way over-anxious when it comes to implementing restrictions on our area.”
Mayor Johnson has defended his decision, saying with COVID numbers going in the wrong direction it’s the best course of action.
Kicklighter was the only commissioner to verbally express his opposition to the mask mandate on Friday. There was no discussion about if the county’s mask mandate could be expanded to include other buildings.