Savannah mayor concerned by Labor Day crowds not wearing masks

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 4:44 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah Mayor Van Johnson says he saw too many people over the long holiday weekend not taking enough precautions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community.

Mayor Johnson says he personally saw a lot of folks downtown over the holiday weekend and was sent pictures and videos of crowds of people, with too few wearing masks.

While downtown yesterday, some visitors from Atlanta who said they thought COVID precautions were largely being taken.

Still, Mayor Johnson says in a few weeks he’ll be meeting with the local medical advisory team to look at local virus transmission rates and case counts and going from there. That’s about the time that city staff will also be re-evaluating permits for large events in public spaces like concerts and marathons scheduled for the months of October and November.

“At the end of the day, our actions now dictate what happens to us in the coming weeks. On one end of it, we see pictures, we see videos of people...young people and older public spaces, very close proximity, no masks. Then we’re wondering why our positivity rate in our schools are up. Well, if parents are not vaccinated or acting responsibly, then obviously they go home, their children catch it. So again, we just have to decide as a community what it is we want to be able to do,” Mayor Johnson said.

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City continues to look into parklet program

The City of Savannah started a pilot program last summer for businesses to use Savannah-owned parking spaces outside the business to create outdoor seating when the state imposed capacity restrictions.

The parklet pilot program ended as capacity restrictions were walked back.

Mayor Johnson says city staff is still looking at ways to create a city-wide, permanent parklet program that’s fair for all businesses wanting to take advantage.

“It has to be evaluated city-wide, first of all. Secondly, there has to be rules associated with that. There has to be some design standards about how we would expect for parklets to be maintained, then there has to be a fee assessed. Because as you know, parking is very valuable, it’s a premium, that’s a cost to the city. And we need to be able to recover that cost,” Mayor Johnson said.

Johnson says it’s his expectation that the program details will be finalized by the beginning of next year.

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