Compliance, not punishment: Mayor Johnson gives update on face mask mandate as COVID-19 cases rise

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s been a week since Mayor Van Johnson issued a face mask mandate for the City of Savannah to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a press conference Tuesday, the mayor first thanked those Savannahians who have been wearing face masks in public, as required. He said this weekend, he was recently out with Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter and saw many folks following the order.

The mayor said he also saw many people not wearing masks, or wearing them incorrectly. He said Minter and SPD officers throughout the City were offering free masks to those without one, stressing that officers will not give a citation without first offering a chance to follow the rules.

Johnson made it clear that the mandatory mask order is about compliance, not punishment.

He also said there will be reminders posted downtown to help ensure that tourists know and understand that they too must wear a face covering in public.

Many people called the City over the past week to report several businesses that were not enforcing the mask mandate in their stores. Johnson said he also received reports that some tours, including walking tours, trolley tours, and party bike tours, were not requiring masks to be worn.

The mayor said he would be amending his executive order to clarify that masks are needed on guided tours.

Johnson then addressed the increase in local COVID-19 cases, saying the coronavirus has now hit close to home for the City of Savannah. Twenty SPD officers and four Savannah firefighters have tested positive.

Recently, 24 employees at city hall were tested after being exposed to a positive person. Johnson said 22 of those people, including himself, have received negative results. The other two did test positive.

Watch Tuesday’s full press briefing below.

“For the first seven days in June, we had 45 cases,” Johnson said. “The first seven days in July, we have had 636 cases. So for those who say that this virus is not spreading, I think the facts, the science, speaks for itself.”

There are currently 85 people hospitalized due to the coronavirus in Chatham County.

To learn more about how you can get tested for COVID-19 in our area, click here.

In other City news, the mayor said 110 applications were submitted to fill the city manager position. The next steps in the hiring process will continue this week.

On Wednesday, Johnson said he will announce a re-entry taskforce named Advocates for Restorative Communities in Savannah (ARCS). WSAV will bring you live coverage and updates on Wednesday.

Johnson wrapped up his prepared remarks asking again that Savannahians complete their 2020 Census.

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