SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah Mayor Van Johnson held a press conference Tuesday morning to provide an update on the local COVID-19 response and to urge Savannahians to take the coronavirus outbreak seriously.
Watch the full press conference above.
Johnson first thanked healthcare workers, law enforcement, the media, transportation workers, utilities employees, food and grocery workers and others employed at essential businesses.
“You are the reason why we will win this war by being the life support for the rest of us to live,” Johnson said.
Johnson then gave an update on the shelter-at-home order issued last week. The order called for all non-essential businesses to close and for restaurants to operate on takeout and delivery services only.
The mayor said that last Thursday and Friday, Code Compliance Officers issued 50 “notices to correct conditions” to non-essential businesses that were still open. The notices were a warning, and businesses continuing to violate the order by refusing to close could be fined up to $1,000 for each day they are open.
Johnson also discussed safety measures Chatham County began taking Monday regarding residents traveling. Anyone who has recently traveled by ship, plane, bus or train is now required to self-isolate for 14 days.
CAT services are still available for essential trips like medical appointments, grocery shopping and work.
Johnson then cleared up a few rumors he said are going around. He reminded the public that there are currently no mandatory curfews issued for the City of Savannah, and there are no City helicopters flying around spraying Lysol on everyone.
“It’s a shame I have to keep saying that, but that’s what people keep saying,” Johnson said.
The mayor then addressed social distancing. He thanked community members and businesses who have stayed home and modified their every day life to comply with the emergency order.
“But there are many of you, citizens and businesses, who have acted like this is some vacation, some game of hide-and-seek or some version of catch me if you can,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he rode by Forsyth Park over the weekend and saw large gatherings of people playing team sports, eating, lounging and relaxing. He said he heard about, and even got invited to, parties and gatherings at houses, apartments and backyards “like it was the Fourth of July.”
“This is not acceptable,” Johnson said.
The mayor said he also saw and heard about business still operating by selling cars and providing beauty and nail services.
“If you don’t care about your customers, then at least care about your employees who could potentially take this virus home to those they love,” Johnson said. “The dollars you make are not worth the epidemic spreading in this community.”
He urged essential businesses to take all necessary precautions to protect their employees.
“This is not a game. This is real life,” Johnson said.
Johnson reminded the public that the incubation period for COVID-19 is between one and 14 days, saying the cases we see in Chatham County are a “snapshot of two weeks ago.”
“What happens today, we won’t see for another two weeks,” Johnson said. “It could be almost two weeks before we actually recognize that foolishness in Forsyth Park, and what that was all about, and what damage that has done to our community, what damage those cookouts did to our community, what damage not social distancing has done to our community.”
Johnson said the City has worked hard to maintain a balance between safety and freedom, but warned that more heavy-handed approaches could come if Savannahians do not start taking social distancing seriously.
“If some of these cavalier attitudes and actions do not change and things do not improve quickly, be assured that dramatically more restrictive actions will be ordered, which could include curfews and more closures,” Johnson said. “Savannah could be shut down in a way that has never been seen in our 287-year history.”
As of Tuesday at noon, there are 87 cases of the coronavirus in WSAV’s viewing area. In Chatham County, there are 25 cases and two deaths reported.
Johnson who is a New York Native said he knows people who have died from the virus back home. He said things could get a lot worse here in Savannah.
“They are packing bodies into refrigerated trucks because they don’t have room in the morgues for them that’s where we are headed,” said Johnson. “I mean its like a hurricane you see it in the distance and you see it coming so we should be preparing for it to atleast minimize our impact.”
WSAV has the latest updates on the coronavirus in Georgia, here.