SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Mayor Van Johnson urged Savannahians to prepare for hurricane season and to also get vaccinated Tuesday, saying he saw largely unmasked crowds over the weekend.
“It certainly appeared that everyone enjoyed the long weekend and not necessarily safely,” Johnson said.
The latest data from the Coastal Health District says Chatham County reported 304 new cases on Friday. To date, the county has reported 29,321 total cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the DPH.
Johnson didn’t know the total number of visitors over Labor Day weekend but said the Savannah-Hilton Head airport, hotels and businesses were packed.
“We see pictures, we see videos of young people and older people in public spaces, very close proximity no masks, but then we’re wondering why our positivity rate in our schools are up,” Johnson said. “Well, if parents are not vaccinated or acting responsibly then obviously they go home, their children catch it.”
The mayor said he will meet with his medical advisory team in the next two weeks to reassess event permits and restrictions for next month.
“At the end of the day, our actions now dictate what happens to us in a couple weeks.”
Johnson also implored Savannahians to prepare for hurricane season as this season brings stronger storms and further complications to response efforts because of COVID-19. He recommended a slew of actions such as organizing legal documents, getting renters and flood insurance, having a plan in case of evacuation, among other things.
He also said the city will work with the Chatham Emergency Management to gauge the city’s flash flood emergency plans. Johnson says the assessment will look at ditches, catch basins, culverts and drainage systems around the city.
“Our storms have absolutely become more frequent, more violent, more deadly, more costly,” Johnson said. “For a coastal city like Savannah, that is extremely important to us.”
He also mentioned creating a task force for downed trees and a team to assess rising waters. Johnson said closing flood-prone streets before a storm reaches the Hostess City is vital.
“As a low-lying land city, Savannah can be just as much a risk from a tropical storm with heavy rain over a short period of time as we can be during a category one hurricane,” Johnson said.
To date, over half of Chatham County residents have received one dose of a COVID vaccine and 46% are fully vaccinated, according to the DPH’s vaccine dashboard.
“If you have not already, please get your COVID vaccine,” Johson said.
Johnson has been urging residents to get inoculated since the vaccines first became available earlier this year. He has floated the idea of vaccine requirements for city employees but said he has no plans to do so right now. Around half of city employees are vaccinated, Johnson says.
Cases began to climb at the end of June and haven’t looked back. The county has seen record cases, hospitalizations and community transmission in late August.
For weeks now, Johnson has also implored Gov. Brian Kemp to implement a statewide mask mandate but Kemp had previously said mask mandates aren’t effective.
“This mask does not restrict freedom, in my opinion, this mask gives freedom,” Johnson said while holding a mask, last Tuesday at his weekly press conference. Masks have become a part of his everyday wardrobe over the past year.