Tourists, local businesses at a divide regarding new mask mandate

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Last week, Chatham County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis officially rescinded Chatham County’s mask mandate to adhere to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidelines.

Even though Chatham County is no longer requiring masks to be worn by those who are 14 days removed from their final COVID-19 vaccination shot, the city of Savannah extended its mask ordinance until the end of May. It begs the question, how could you potentially enforce this updated mask mandate?

“I’m not sure what the regulations are here but it makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable,” said Heidi Yamazaki, who is visiting Savannah for the week. “We came down yesterday and almost nobody is wearing masks.”

A spokesperson with the Chatham County Police Department told me they haven’t written any mask violation tickets in the last year. Although they haven’t received any further information as to how they should enforce the city’s current mask mandate, they encourage people to continue to social distance if applicable.

This divide has proved challenging for local businesses. Since there’s no current way to enforce the updated mask mandate, many businesses are having to take matters into their own hands.

“A lot of people are starting to wear less masks than I’ve seen in the past few weeks, so there’s more people giving us attitude about having to wear masks in our store now that the mandate has been lifted,” said Kayla Herren, Manager of the Georgia Tasting Room. “We’re a smaller environment and a lot of our staff still hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, so it’s just to make sure they’re comfortable still working in the environment that is still the pandemic.”

Dr. Lawton Davis, Director of the Coastal Health District applauded the CDC’s decision to allow fully vaccinated people to ditch their masks both indoors and out, but urges people to remain cautious.

“I think that by having the mask mandate in effect even if it’s not being actively enforced, it at least reminds people that they need to practice common sense,” said Davis. “The CDC has stated that you don’t necessarily have to wear them (masks), but it doesn’t state that you can’t wear them and I would submit that we know they work. So, when in doubt put it on. You’re safer with it, even if your vaccinated than you are without it.”

Following the CDC’s updated guidelines, retail stores like Walmart, Target, Publix, and Costco have dropped their mask requirements for fully vaccinated customers and employees.

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