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COVID safety encouraged while enjoying St. Patrick’s Day festivities

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*(WTOC)
Updated: Mar. 16, 2021 at 1:30 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The biggest holiday in the Hostess City is on Wednesday.

Thousands have come and will continue to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the city, but doctors encourage you to do it safely as we still face an infectious disease pandemic.

Memorial Health’s Dr. Stephen Thacker says while people are enjoying the holiday, there was sound science to cancel the festivities. He says it’s still not a good idea to gather in large groups especially from all over into small, confined spaces.

He says it is too soon to know how gatherings this weekend will impact us as those continue through the week.

But he does worry about how transmission of COVID-19 could be impacted, but says we are certainly in a better place than last St. Patrick’s Day. That is not only from a better understanding of the virus but with the help from the vaccine, though not widespread enough.

“Many of the young individuals that will be traveling during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and spring breaks are those folks we have not yet reached with vaccination and so I think it’s so important that everyone that, that’s a business owner or if you’re out celebrating you made that decision to travel for the holiday make sure you’re still following the guidance that we know helps minimize the spread of this virus. Social distancing, avoiding gathering in large groups and then masking when you can’t socially distance,” Memorial Health Pediatric Infectious Disease Dr. Stephen Thacker said.

Dr. Thacker hopes we can be an example of how to follow guidance and stay on track with minimizing the spread.

One thing important to note is that Savannah does have a mask mandate. Dr. Thacker says a mask should be worn when you cannot socially distance and that includes spaces outdoors as well.

Mayor Van Johnson says the city’s approach was about safety.

While the city has already seen thousands out here celebrating St. Patrick’s Day they say planning for this year was different than before and something they are still adapting to.

“We really don’t have a template for how to manage a St. Patrick’s Day non-festival during a pandemic,” said Mayor Johnson.

The mayor says they are managing the situation as they go and are adjusting their plan as needed. While many flocked downtown, mayor Johnson says he doesn’t regret allowing businesses to stay open.

“Our economy needed a shot in the arm, but we also needed people to be safe and so it was a very delicate tight walk, tight rope walking act, but no at this point I don’t regret it however Team Savannah will tell you that there is a curfew order that is signed waiting for me to date it that I will implement without a moment’s hesitation if things get out of hand.”

He says while Savannah is open for business, people need to wear masks. The city’s COVID resource team and Police estimate they gave out nearly 18,000 masks this weekend and no citations. For the mayor this was a good thing.

“When you ask somebody to put on a mask, they put it on, why would I write you a citation? I mean the whole issue about this was not about being punitive, it was about compliance.”

Police did however issue 23 citations for the alcohol ordinance to 19 establishments, a majority for employee training regulations. Additionally traffic enforcement issued 9 DUI’s and 127 citations on Friday and Saturday alone. Chief Roy Minter says they had an increased presence over the weekend and that will continue.

“We will be staffed up again tomorrow and also going into Friday and Saturday. We will have the same three objectives that we had for this previous weekend and that’s the safety for our residents and our visitors and that’s just for the entire city, not just for the downtown area, also mask and social distance enforcement and then the last thing is having an enhanced presence throughout the entire city,” said Chief Minter.

The mayor said they do not want to be kill joys, but they want people to be safe this St. Patrick’s Day.

He says savannah has played the long game from the start and fared well and should stay that way so next year we can have the biggest celebration yet.

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