SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Mayor Van Johnson held his weekly press conference Tuesday morning as Savannah nears the 6-month mark of its fight against COVID-19.
Johnson said confirmed cases reported so far in July alone in Chatham County surpassed all confirmed cases from March, April, May and June combined. Two weeks ago, Chatham County was ranked fifteenth in Georgia counties for the most confirmed COVID-19 cases. Tuesday, the county ranked sixth.
He said more testing is not the only reason we are seeing an uptick in cases. He said testing does not create new cases, but rather “reveals and confirms” new cases.
As of Tuesday, the mayor said 50 City of Savannah employees, 28 Savannah police officers, and seven Savannah firefighters have tested positive. There are currently over 120 people hospitalized in Chatham County due to the coronavirus.
“Every single number represents a member of our community,” Johnson said.
The mayor said Savannah Police officers have given out over 1,000 face masks to people not wearing one in public.
He said at this point, any businesses not enforcing the City’s mask requirement in their establishment will face punishment. Johnson said businesses will receive a warning, then a fine, then a public nuisance charge if they continue to not comply.
Johnson then addressed the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, expressing his full support of SCCPSS Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett and her recommendation for a delayed school year that incorporates virtual learning.
The mayor said there is “no way” to open public schools safely in just a little over two weeks. He said it would be extremely difficult to enforce wearing masks and practicing social distancing at school.
He asked the community to assist him, the City, and the school system in making sure all students have the best possible learning experience in the upcoming nine weeks.
The school board is set to discuss the recommendation at their next meeting on Thursday.
Johnson then addressed other states, like California, who are now backtracking and shutting down again after re-opening. He said he does not want to issue another stay-at-home order and does not want to see businesses close down.
“We do not want to go back, but if the science says we must, we will,” Johnson said.
He closed his remarks on the local COVID-19 response by again encouraging the community to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash their hands and stay home if they are sick.
Johnson quoted Forrest Gump and said, “that’s all I have to say about that.”
The mayor wrapped up his press conference with some City news.
The search for the new City Manager continues, and the City now has a new, redesigned website. Check it out, here.
Johnson said SPD reports that violent crime, along with other crime, is down compared to this time last year.
“This is a start,” the mayor said.
Lastly, Johnson once again asked the public to complete their 2020 Census.
Watch full press conference below.