SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Mayor Van Johnson on Wednesday, urged Savannahians to remain calm amid the emerging COVID-19 variant experts believe to be more transmissible than previous variants.
“We are keeping a watchful eye on the new COVID-19 variant called omicron,” Johnson said. “We’re watching and we’re not panicking. Our message remains the same, we want Savannahians to get vaccinated.”
He also shot down plans to reinstate the city’s mask mandate, saying it’s “way too early” to do so. Instead, he said the city — along with its health experts — plan to further evaluate daily case rates and the community transmission index.
He 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.
“We were told from the beginning of this, we were fear-mongering,” Johnson said in response to residents downplaying the emerging variant. “Warning people about a dangerous disease, virus, that has killed hundreds of people here in Savannah is not fear mongering. It’s telling the truth.”
To date, Chatham County has reported a total of 33,466 COVID-19 cases and 665 deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s vaccine dashboard.
Daily infections in Chatham County continue to decline to lows last seen in mid-Summer 2021 — historic highs, from the delta variant, immediately followed, however, in July. The latest data reports the average number of daily cases is 12.4, according to data from the Coastal Health District.
The city repealed its mask mandate just weeks ago, implementing an advisory instead, pointing to the dip in community transmission index below the 100 level. It has since dropped even lower.
“Our community transmission index is in the 60’s and so we suspect that will bump up after Thanksgiving and Christmas, and again the more people that are vaccinated, the better we are,” Johnson said.
The community transmission index accounts for new infections per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days. A statewide recommendation suggests implementing mask mandates once that number raises above 100.
Johnson also urged residents to get vaccinated, receive boosters and wear masks when around people they’re not living with. He said he got his booster shot a couple of weeks ago and continues to incorporate masks into his daily wardrobe.
Watch the full press conference below.