SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s safe to say no one could’ve predicted the circumstances Savannah has seen this year.
As Mayor Van Johnson said in his virtual State of the City address Wednesday, “our city and our world were very different places” when he took office nearly 10 months ago.
“We weren’t talking about COVID-19, we weren’t talking about masks, we weren’t talking about unprecedented times,” he added.
Back in March is where it all started. The city braced for the impacts of COVID-19 that’s when Mayor Johnson put in place a local emergency order. He said since then the city has continued to make strides.
By April, Chatham County saw more than 100 cases, and that number climbed in the months that followed.
The county has now seen more than 9,000 cases and 180 deaths to date. The mayor asked Savannahians to join him in a moment of silence for the lives lost.
Johnson said there is one thing that’s been proven to help stop the spread of the virus, masks. Savannah was the first city in Georgia to mandate masks on July 1 and Johnson said the city received a lot of heat about that.
Johnson and City Manager Pat Monahan highlighted the steps the city has taken to combat the virus like partnering with New York for COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment.
They acknowledged other successes, including numerous new task forces established to tackle human rights, housing, and policing issues.
Johnson also highlighted that “the city remains financially strong.” Throughout the pandemic Savannah businesses shuttered their doors causing a peak in unemployment of 15.3 percent in April but as of this week that number is down to 6.4 percent.
“It’s been a busy, extraordinary year. None of us, none of us, could’ve predicted or expected the challenges we faced,” the mayor said.
The mayor touched on the top of crime in the city and he says Savannah leaders are committed to working to stop the crime.
“We’ll do everything we can to protect our residents from the threat of gun violence and I think you can all agree that we have a little too much gun violence in our community,” Johnson said.
The Savannah Police Department (SPD) says violent crime is down one percent. Overall crimes like robbery and assaults have decreased by 21 percent. SPD has made 133 gun arrests this year.
“I know Savannah will make it through it,” Johnson said, seeming to get emotional, “because we’re ‘Savannah Strong.'”
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