Mayor Johnson says rising COVID infections are ‘very concerning’

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Mayor Van Johnson said Tuesday, the city of Savannah is “cautiously” evaluating COVID-19 infections and will implement further restrictions if infections continue rising.

For the first time in more than a month, the community transmission index — which totals the number of new confirmed cases in the past two weeks per 100,000 residents — surpassed 100, noting a high transmission rate, according to the Coastal Health District.

“It’s very concerning and we’re watching,” Johnson says. “So, I would not be surprised to see additional measures if this continues.” While Johnson said reinstating restrictions is a possibility, the city and its health advisors will hold off on recommendations until it reports a consistent rise in COVID-19 infections.

With the emerging omicron COVID variant and the holiday season in full swing, more than half of U.S. states have reported increases in COVID infections. Statewide new cases continue to rise, reporting 2,707 new cases Monday — including 30 in Chatham County — according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Recent statistics also show hospitalizations jumped 3% to 1,096 in the Peach State since Friday. However, locally, Chatham County’s dropped from 16 to 9.

Thirty-six more lives were lost since Friday, including one in Chatham County and another in Long County. A total of 672 people have died in Chatham County due to COVID-19, since the start of the pandemic.

“Obviously, if it stays up, then mask mandates might be back in the question,” Johnson says. “Limiting capacity might also be in question … This is not unexpected, so we’re not going to panic, but on the other end, we want people to get vaccinated.”

Johnson also pointed to lower vaccination rates in neighboring counties as a cause for concern, considering that some travel into Savannah to visit or for work.

The city repealed its mask mandate in mid-November, implementing an advisory instead, pointing to the dip below 100 in the community transmission index at that time. A statewide recommendation established early on in the pandemic, suggests implementing mask mandates once that number raises above 100.

As of Tuesday, 57% of Chatham County residents are partially vaccinated and 52% are fully vaccinated, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s vaccine dashboard.

He also continued to urge residents to get vaccinated, saying it’s “the way we get out of this.”

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