SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah’s mayor says residents have lived 25 and two days under the most extraordinary of circumstances.
During his weekly briefing on the city’s COVID-19 response on Tuesday, Mayor Van Johnson reminded the public that as Labor Day approaches, it’s time to keep focused.
“We can’t afford to lose our focus. Continue to wear masks, wash your hands, and practice social distancing,” he said.
Johnson says the Coastal Health District reports the case rate dropped by more than half and transmission dropped significantly. He and local health officials believe Savannah’s mask mandate is helping, according to the positive indications.
The mayor reported Chatham County’s daily case per 100,000 and community transmission index are slightly down from last week.
Masks are still mandatory in the City of Savannah and all of Chatham County. If you’re in the city and not wearing a mask, you may be approached by a member of the COVID Resource Team.
The team is made up of Savannah Police officers and deputized city marshals who have the authority to issue citations to encourage compliance. These individuals provide education about the importance of mask-wearing to slow the spread of COVID-19 and will offer a free mask if you do not have one.
If after having the opportunity to comply you choose not to, the marshal will issue you a citation, with a fine of up to $50. So far, team members have handed out 600 masks and zero citations.
“The 600 masks they gave out were 600 opportunities for tickets, or citations that had been avoided,” said Mayor Johnson. “And again, we’re not trying to make money, we’re not trying to hurt anybody, we’re just trying to do the right thing.”
So far, 94 city employees have tested positive for COVID-19; 26 are still out.
Meanwhile, help is available for Savannah residents with past due mortgage, rent, or utility bills through the United Way of the Coastal Empire.
The city allocated $3.3 million to the United Way to help pay balances accrued from March through August 2020 due to loss of income directly related to the pandemic.
Johnson says they’ve received more than 1,100 calls. Visit here for more information or call 211, available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
City of Savannah and Small Business Assistance Corporation had an overwhelming response from local businesses applying for CARES Act funding.
In the first round of grants, they were able to help 42 Savannah businesses with grants of up to $50,000. The city allocated $2 million of its CARES Act funding to small businesses.
The second round of grants should be available in early September to help more Savannah businesses. The city is anticipating an additional $8.5 million in funding.
Mayor Johnson says he will propose to the city council that it uses $1.6 million of that to supply grants to as many as 80 small businesses.
This time, grants up to $20,000 will be available to businesses that meet certain criteria. Businesses should start applying Sept. 1.
If council agrees to allocate an additional $1.6 million to small businesses, the city will have shelled out a total of $3.6 million in funding to small businesses in the city.
Watch the mayor’s full press conference below: