SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah Mayor Van Johnson hosted a press conference Tuesday morning to give an update regarding the city’s latest state during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Johnson maintains that Savannah is still in the thick of this pandemic. He’s working on a detailed city initiative to help businesses reopen safely and even exploring legal options that would require everyone in Savannah to wear face coverings in public.
“Things are not normal,” said Johnson.
While the mayor did acknowledge that COVID-19 related hospitalizations are down and Chatham County is on the low end in terms of total infections, he does not think now is the time to let our guard down.
“We have the sixth-highest seven day rolling average, we are in the same place today that we were on April 3,” said Johnson. “We have over 300 hundred cases and folks are still dying in this community.”
Johnson said numbers don’t lie and science proves face coverings can slow infection rates. The mayor said he’s consulting with the city attorney and considering making them mandatory.
“If we cannot do it through influence and begging maybe there might be ways we can do it legislatively,” he said.
Johnson also spoke about the city’s current plans to collect yard waste for city residents. The city planned a one-time pick-up operation at the end of April, but debris pile up exceeded the city’s expectations leading to a delay in the process.
The mayor apologized for the delay and said the city continues to work on a solution to the problem. Read more on the yard waste plan here.
“I hope that we remember that we are living in some unusual circumstances, therefore we have not been operating as usual,” said Johnson.”We will not stop until we’ve reached every single neighborhood.”
Johnson said it’s also the city government’s responsibility to help businesses reopen safely. He said several agencies are working on a new initiative known as “Resilient Savannah.”
He said it would include policies, practices and collaborations designed to address the “after this” of COVID-19.
“This proposal will suggest several options like reducing sidewalk dining permit requirements and fees,” Johnson said, “or temporarily closing streets to offer more rooms for restaurants to serve customers at a safe distance citywide.”
He plans to share more details in a media press briefing on Wednesday at 2 p.m.
“We recognize Georgia, whether we like it or not, is open for business,” said Johnson. “We need to be able to find ways to help our businesses to keep their employees and customers safe while we are harking and continuing to insist on personal responsibility.”
Watch Tuesday’s complete press conference below.