Savannah mayor on emergency declaration: ‘We’re doing the absolute best we can’

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – On Thursday, Mayor Van Johnson declared a local state of emergency in the City of Savannah that will take effect on Saturday, March 21 at 8 a.m. through at least April 5.

Johnson held a press conference Friday to address members of the media and many concerns of his residents.

“We’re doing the absolute best we can,” he said, adding, “I think everybody has recommendations: ‘We should do this, we should do that, we should do this.'”

He continued: “We didn’t sign up for a pandemic but here we are. And no one standing behind me — these professionals or the professionals they represent — have ever seen anything like this ever before.”

Johnson’s declaration orders all bars and nightclubs that do not serve food to close. Restaurants and other eating and drinking establishments must reduce their seating capacity by 50% for dine-in services.

Restaurants can continue to serve food and drink via delivery, drive-thru and takeout as normal.

Cafeterias in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers and similar facilities will not be subject to these restrictions and will be allowed to continue regular operations.

Watch Friday’s full press conference:

In addition, all gyms, fitness centers, movie theaters, live performance venues, bowling alleys and arcades will be closed. All sightseeing, guided and narrated tours must stop operations.

All city metered and garage parking will be free for the first hour.

Funerals with more than 10 mourners are encouraged to conduct graveside services only or postpone to a future date.

But places like retail stores, hair salons and public parks can remain open at this time.

The emergency declaration also allows the city manager to activate emergency operations plans. City employees will soon begin working remotely as directed.

“There is no playbook. There is no ‘What to do next?'” Johnson said Friday.

“We know hurricanes, we know how to do hurricanes,” he continued, “We know we can evacuate and then folks come back after. There’s nowhere to evacuate to and so we just ask the people to be understanding about that. Be patient about that.”

Johnson said he wants his citizens to know he’s working each day to make decisions on the next step for Savannah.

Apparently getting emotional, he said: “It’s very trying times for all of us and we want people just to understand that and be understanding that we’re trying. Criticism at this point gets us nowhere.”

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