SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Mayor Van Johnson on Tuesday gave updates on mask enforcement during weekend St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and what he expects for the upcoming holiday.
“Savannah is wide open, we’ve been wide open, and the way we stay wide open is to require the use of masks,” Johnson said. The city of Savannah implemented a mask mandate in July 2020 and it remains in effect.
Johnson said he and the Savannah Police Department handed out 18,000 masks to people over the weekend downtown. The mayor said there was no reason to hand out mask citations to anyone because everyone complied and put on a mask.
“Have fun, just wear a mask,” Johnson said. He went on to say he does not regret closing bars and clubs over the weekend because of the city’s consistent messaging on mask-wearing and enforcement.
However, he was irritated with news reports over the weekend comparing the Hostess City to others, he said.
“I saw some of them, some irritated me because they showed Miami beach and faded to Savannah,” Johnson said. “That’s not Savannah.”
Johnson said 40 businesses were inspected and 23 were given citations. Most of these were employee training regulation violations, which means some staff members did not have the proper training or permit to serve alcohol.
Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter says that oversight will continue along with mask and social distance enforcement.
“We’ll be staffed up again tomorrow and also going into Friday and Saturday,” said Minter.
Johnson did jokingly say that he visited a business that was “crunk” and was crowded, and that he and police left quickly because of that.
“It was just a lot of people and they were having a good time and it was refreshing to see that, but on the other end of it,” said Johnson, “this is a super spreader.”
Watch the full press conference below:
Officials don’t anticipate any major rifts this week and into the weekend, but precautions are already being taken. Johnson says team Savannah has written up a curfew that could be put into effect at a moments notice if “things get out hand.”
“We really don’t have a template for how to manage a St. Patrick’s Day non-festival during the pandemic,” he said. Although the city has discouraged festivals, they still plan to enforce mandates and rules in public areas.
Johnson said he understands that businesses and people are struggling for cash, but the city will “put people above profits.”