SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The city of Savannah has extended its mask mandate through February hoping it will help reduce transmission and pave the way for future events, Mayor Van Johnson said at a press conference Tuesday.
“We’re in the fourth quarter and we are aiming to get past this,” Johnson said of the city’s fight against the novel coronavirus. “We are still dangerously high, we’re hoping that we can keep this downward trend, keep the trajectory down and we’ll see where we are in 28 days.”
Johnson credited the high transmissibility of the omicron variant as a reason Chatham County saw record COVID-19 daily infections and community transmission rate in January. But, he pointed to the decreases seen in COVID statistics across the United States as a glimmer of hope for the Hostess City.
Chatham County reported 133 new daily cases Monday, bringing the county’s total since the beginning of the pandemic to 58,573 infections. according to the Coastal Health District. The seven-day rolling average has been decreasing since Jan. 20, and now sits at 359.
The community transmission index has also begun to slowly decline from previous record highs seen throughout January. The current transmission index — which accounts for the daily number of new infections in the past 14 days per 100,000 residents — has lowered to 2480.
While the mask mandate only applies to city-owned buildings, Johnson urged residents to continue practicing safety measures such as wearing a mask when indoors, practicing social distancing and frequent hand-washing.
“Savannahians understand what this is all about,” Johnson said of the mask mandate. “We have done well, we’re getting there, our interventions are working, our city has remained open, our businesses are flourishing and our numbers are there to prove it.”
Johnson is aiming to reduce the county’s community transmission to below 100, which prompted the city to remove the mask mandate when that has happened in the past. The mayor is hoping the extension of the mask mandate works as a last-ditch effort to salvage St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and future events.
“We’re hoping as we go through flu season, as the weather is warmer, that we’ll rebound naturally,” Johnson said.
The Enmarket Arena is slated to open its doors for the first time this weekend with a showcasing community event on Saturday, followed by a country music concert the following night. Johnson said event-goers will have to wear masks during the community event, but the city has not yet made a decision on whether it will require attendees to show proof of vaccination.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 59% of Chatham County residents are partially vaccinated with 54% being fully vaccinated. Forty percent of those who are fully vaccinated have also received booster shots.
Chatham County is ahead of the state in fully vaccinated rate and booster doses, however, lags slightly in the percentage of residents who have received at least one dose.