Mayor Van Johnson says Savannah is actively enforcing mask mandate

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Mayor Van Johnson held his weekly press conference Tuesday morning to provide an update on the local COVID-19 status.

Johnson began with thanking New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for visiting Savannah on Monday. The two announced a partnership between the State of New York and the City of Savannah to fight COVID-19.

New York has donated thousands of PPE to the city, set up two new testing sites and given Savannah training information to get a contact tracing program set up. Cuomo said he will also continue to give Johnson advice as cases continue to rise in Chatham County.

“When you want to win, you connect with winners,” Johnson said on the partnership.

Johnson said in the past 20 days, there have been 2,193 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in the Coastal Health District. Two-thirds of all confirmed cases have been reported in the last 3 weeks. The positive test rate is now at 15%.

On July 1, there were 61 people hospitalized in Chatham County due to the coroanvirus. On Monday, July 20, there were 152 people hospitalized.

Johnson said Chatham County now ranks seventh in total COVID-19 cases in the state. The county ranks 81st in number of cases per 100,000 people.

The City of Savannah now has 68 total employees who have tested positive. 33 of those people are SPD officers, and 10 are firefighters.

Following the latest local statistics, Johnson said he wanted to make it clear that the City of Savannah is still under an executive order that requires masks to be worn in public, despite Governor Brian Kemp’s order that says local governments cannot enforce this.

Johnson said he will close businesses that are not taking the order seriously and are a risk to public health.

Savannah’s Tourism Leadership Council president says most businesses are on board, but the mayor’s expectation of enforcement is too high.

“Last week of the press conference he said he was going to shut down businesses and declare them public nuisances if the business didn’t enforce his order on others,” said Owens, “I absolutely think that’s the bridge too far, it doesn’t make me disagree with wearing a mask.”

Owens says that puts employees in a tough and possibly dangerous position because some patrons could resort to violence, but one Savannahian says people ought to just comply.

“I really agree with our mayor,” said Linda Robinson, “We’ve got to get back to normal we can’t do it without people cooperating, we all hate it, but its the best thing for us.”

The mayor also expressed concern that young people are not only “super spreaders,” but are also seeing severe symptoms when they do become sick. He stressed that large gatherings or parties without masks and proper social distancing will not be tolerated in Savannah.

Johnson said there is currently a COVID-19 vaccine study by Meridian Clinical Research looking for volunteers in Savannah. WSAV.com NOW’s Claire Going will have more on this tonight on News 3.

The mayor wrapped up his prepared remarks with some City news. He again encouraging the public to complete their 2020 Census. He said census participation is slowly, but surely, increasing.

He also asked people participate in early voting, which opened up on Monday. He encouraged Savannahians not to wait to cast their vote, citing problems at the polls last election day.

Johnson said he will introduce the new Savannah Racial Equality and Leadership task force on Thursday morning. WSAV will be there, bringing you the latest.

Watch full press conference below

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