Savannah mayor signs executive order requiring face masks in public

Mayor Johnson announced an emergency order requiring face masks in public spaces will go into effect July 1 at 8 a.m.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson during his weekly COVID-19 update on 6/30/2020.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson during his weekly COVID-19 update on 6/30/2020.(WTOC)
Updated: Jun. 30, 2020 at 6:43 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah Mayor Van Johnson gave his weekly COVID-19 update on Tuesday.

During this week’s update, Mayor Johnson said he sent a letter to Governor Brian Kemp to notify him that he’s signing an emergency order requiring wearing masks in public spaces within the city of Savannah.

“Frankly and honestly, I do not believe we have another choice,” Mayor Johnson said. “Our seven-day rolling average (of new cases) is 43, which is a new record, and our 14-day rolling average is 33, which is a new record. The numbers speak for themselves. These are not the records Savannah wants or needs to break. This necessitates a substantial paradigm shift and corresponding drastic action to keep Savannah safe during these very delicate times.”

The order goes into effect Wednesday, July 1, at 8 a.m. and will remain in effect until further notice. The ordinance is only in effect in the city limits of Savannah.

According to the order:

All persons entering a commercial establishment in the City must wear a face covering or mask while inside the establishment. This does not apply to religious establishments. However, face coverings are highly recommended during religious activity.

All restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies in the City must require their employees to wear a face-covering at all times while having face-to-face interaction with the public.

Any person who is unable to safely wear a face-covering due to age, an underlying health condition, or is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others is exempt from this order.

Face coverings are not required in the following circumstances:

  • In personal vehicles
  • When a person is alone in enclosed spaces or only with other household members
  • During outdoor physical activity, provided the active person maintains a minimum of 6 feet from other people with whom they do not cohabitate at all times
  • While drinking, eating, or smoking
  • When wearing face-covering causes or aggravates a health condition
  • When wearing a face covering would prevent the receipt of personal services
  • When a person is 10 years of age or younger

The city says any person who fails to comply shall be guilty of a civil infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $500.

"The point of this order is not to be punitive," Mayor Johnson said. "If we see someone without a face covering, the first thing we will do is offer them one. If that person refuses the face covering, that's a different issue entirely."

Rewatch the mayor’s entire update:

WATCH: During Savannah Mayor Van Johnson's weekly COVID-19 update, he announced a new mandate requiring masks in Savannah.

Posted by WTOC-TV on Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Read the full executive order:

The Georgia Southern University – Armstrong campus is exempt from the mayor’s order.

The university sent the following message to faculty and staff:

“The university is aware of the emergency order signed by City of Savannah Mayor Johnson that will require the wearing of face masks in certain areas within Savannah city limits beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1. State property, to include our campuses, is not subject to terms of local regulation. Following current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, the university very strongly recommends wearing face masks or cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Remember, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses and in our communities. Please visit the COVID-19 FAQ page on the Georgia Southern website for more information.”

Savannah State University issued the following statement regarding the mask ordiance:

“The university is aware of the emergency order signed by City of Savannah Mayor Johnson requiring the public to wear masks or face coverings within the City of Savannah that began 8 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1. We encourage our students, faculty and staff to follow the city’s guidelines as well guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which also recommends wearing face masks or cloth face coverings in public settings, practicing social distancing, washing their hands frequently and other measures to help lessen the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and in our communities.”

Info from Florida Atlanta University:

“Researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science conducted an experiment using flow visualization to demonstrate how far a cough travels and how long it lingers in the air. Flow visualization is a method that enables flow patterns, such as a stream of particles from a cough, to become visible in fluids like air and water since they are transparent. Various techniques using flow visualization make these patterns visible to the naked eye.

In a laboratory setting, the researchers were able to visually demonstrate a mechanically emulated cough/sneeze jet from an orifice representing the mouth and the associated particle-laden airflow using a mannequin and other props.


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