Savannah mayor displeased with Gov. Kemp’s decision to begin opening businesses

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson during a news conference addressing Coronavirus concerns on Tuesday,...
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson during a news conference addressing Coronavirus concerns on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.(WTOC)
Updated: Apr. 21, 2020 at 11:26 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced plans on Monday to begin reopening select businesses in Georgia as early as Friday, April 24.

Several mayors around the state, including Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, have expressed displeasure with the governor’s statements.

Mayor Johnson called the governor’s choice to reopen businesses, “reckless, premature, and dangerous.” He made an appearance on CNN Monday night.

The mayor held a Zoom meeting on Tuesday where he revisited some of those points.

Mayor Johnson said the governor’s directive comes well before the expiration of the April 30 shelter-at-home order, and the suggested guidelines from the White House.

He said the science still indicates to him that the gradual reopening of businesses should only happen when there’s a clear declining trajectory of new cases and widespread testing availability. Simply put, Mayor Johnson doesn’t think we’re there yet.

HAPPENING NOW: Savannah Mayor Van Johnson gives his weekly COVID-19 update via Zoom.

Posted by WTOC-TV on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

But with the city’s hands tied by the statewide order, the mayor encouraged Savannahians to take charge.

“As your mayor, I’m telling you that you are the mayors and governors of your own households. You call the shots in your homes and in your businesses. You get to choose where you go and where you don’t go. You choose where your family goes, you choose where your children go,” Mayor Johnson said.

Shortly into his prepared remarks Tuesday, Mayor Johnson said he hasn’t spoken directly to Governor Kemp about his plans to reopen the state, but added he was surprised given it set a benchmark for some businesses to reopen should the choose to do so days ahead of the expiration of the statewide shelter in place order.

So even though some shops like nail and hair salons and gyms will be allowed to open their doors this Friday -with some restrictions - Mayor Johnson had this to say to those owners.

“I’m asking businesses in the City of Savannah, I can’t speak for anywhere else, wherever and however possible to remain closed and not place your employees and customers in potentially dangerous situations,” Johnson said.

As a city, Mayor Johnson says their employees will continue to operate under current protocols with things like social distancing and wearing masks.

The mayor followed that by asking residents to continue to follow common sense and the science and stay home.

Albany, Ga.’s mayor, Bo Dorough, had this to say about Gov. Kemp’s directive.

"As a citizen, we need to understand that reopening the economy should be guided by benchmarks, not dates. That reopening the economy should be a gradual and controlled process. And that’s not what we’re seeing here,” Dorough said.

Stay with WTOC for this developing story.

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