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Savannah mayor gives update on Omicron variant, water utility bills at weekly briefing

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 5:31 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The White House announced Wednesday a person in California is the first in the U.S. to have an identified case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The announcement of the first U.S. case comes as scientists continue to study the risks posed by the new strain of the virus. Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious than previous strains, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and how effective current vaccines are against it.

The variant’s potential impact on the Savannah area is being closely watched by local leaders. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson talked about Omicron at City Hall.

Mayor Johnson says city leaders are watching for any Omicron developments, but they’re not panicking. He says the messaging remains the same as it has throughout the pandemic - that he wants to see Savannahians get vaccinated.

And for Savannahians who have been vaccinated, the Mayor urges them to get the booster shot if they’re eligible.

“We’re not going to panic. We recognize that people who are vaccinated have a better experience. So while the scientists figure out the efficacy of the Moderna, of the Pfizer and of the Johnson and Johnson regarding omicron, then we’re just going to continue trying to get people vaccinated,” Mayor Johnson said.

Mayor Johnson says he plans on continuing to follow the guidance of his health advisory team made up of local health experts.

“We’re just ask people to be careful. As you know, each week we’re looking at this on a daily basis, and if we need to make adjustments, we’ll make adjustments.”

The Mayor then explained what could push city leaders to make those adjustments.

“It might be a sudden uptick in hospitalizations, might do it. The community transmission index is another indicator that we just talked about. New cases might be. So it could be any combination of those that might say, our medical folks might say, we need to slow this down.”

Mayor Johnson said adjustments to a spike in cases would mean the green mask mandate sign goes back up here at City Hall, and events in public spaces would yet again be limited.

But again, no decisions are being made right now.

Water utility billing

City of Savannah leaders say millions of dollars are set aside in the proposed 2022 budget that will bring Savannah’s water utility billing process into the 21st century.

Mayor Van Johnson talked about the new water utility technology at his weekly briefing at City Hall. Mayor Johnson pointed out the city still manually goes out and checks water meters around Savannah.

Mayor Johnson says technology exists that allows water utility services to get data remotely, that’s not only more accurate, it can detect and report leaks in a home’s water pipes. That could in turn save customers big bucks and prevent billing headaches.

Right now the proposed 2022 budget has $4 million set aside for water meter modernization. The Mayor also pointed out the city currently sends out water bills every two months, which could be confusing for some customers.

“Where it makes sense we need to go ahead and move to the monthly bill like everything else. And so there’s a cost in being able to adjust to be able to do that,” Mayor Johnson said.

The Mayor also says there’s a partnership in the works between the City and the Economic Opportunity Authority and the Georgia Department of Human Services to help customers with outstanding water bills.

More details on that partnership should be out in the coming days.

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