SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Mayor Van Johnson urged vaccination and asked businesses to impose mask mandates amid rising infections in the Hostess City.
“You’re not doing it for me, you’re doing it for you,” Johnson said of getting vaccinated and wearing masks. “You’re doing it so that your life is not adversely affected any more than it is now.”
Chatham County is seeing COVID-19 numbers last seen in February earlier this year, according to the Coastal Health District. The difference is infections were declining in February, after reaching historic highs. Also, vaccines were not widely available.
Now, numbers are moving in the opposite direction.
“The fact of the matter is if we don’t have some type of intermediate step to slow the spread, then our numbers go through the roof and we shut businesses down,” Johnson said. “That’s when freedom is restricted.”
Infections and hospitalizations are rising while vaccines are widely available and sometimes discarded because of lack of demand. Currently, the 7-day average of cases is 114 in Chatham County. The Community transmission index, which totals the number of cases per 100,000 residents, is 468. It was 52 on July 1. Hospitalizations sit at 140 and the last time numbers reached higher was on Feb. 3.
Johnson responded to criticism he’s received since reinstating the mask mandate in city-owned buildings.
“This is not coming from a political standpoint or a governmental standpoint, it’s coming from a medical, epidemiology and infectious diseases standpoint,” Johnson said.
Johnson also called on businesses to avoid capacity limits and instead impose mask mandates and social distancing. Further restrictions will follow if numbers continue to rise, Johnson said.
“If the city gets to a position where we have to cancel large-scale events, we will and that affects your business,” Johnson said. “So, I would ask that businesses go ahead and join the team.”
Johnson wouldn’t commit to extending the mask mandate but did say once numbers steadily decline it will once again be removed. Johnson said it will take 10 to 14 days to evaluate the impact the mandate has on curbing infections.
Based on advice from local health officials, Johnson said the mask mandate will remain in place until more people get vaccinated.
“This piece of fabric allows people the freedom to go live, eat, work and play where they want to. Without this, then we have to restrict access,” Johnson said.
Also, the Savannah Civic Center will no longer serve as a vaccine clinic as demand for COVID-19 testing has increased, according to Johnson. The center will revert back to a testing clinic. Testing is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or on the first and third Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
For local vaccine information, click or tap here. The vaccine clinic will move down the street to Station 3 on 121 E. Oglethorpe Ave. and operate on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Personally, I think that this demand is backwards. And if more people were being vaccinated there would not be the increased need for testing,” Johnson said. “If people can take the time to get tested, they can take the time to get vaccinated.”