Mayor Johnson media conference – April 7, 2020
Talking points for: Mayor Van R. Johnson, II
• Good morning. Thank you for continuing to help us share the latest information about Savannah’s response to COVID-19. We continue to salute those serving on Savannah’s front lines of this pandemic, particularly those in the healthcare field. Thank you.
• Chatham County has experienced a 479 percent increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases since last Monday morning. We now have the 13 most cases of Georgia’s 159 counties. This was expected. We are now seeing the results of what has occurred in our community over the last two weeks and the result of increased testing.
• As you are aware, Governor Kemp’s statewide shelter-at-home went into effect at 6 pm last Friday. To be clear, there is only one order in place at this time and that is Governor Kemp’s order, and we will abide by his order.
• That being said, to further protect the health and safety of our City, I have extended Savannah’s shelter-at-home order until midnight on May 1 in the event that Governor Kemp’s mandate expires on April 13 without additional action.
• Savannah’s residential sanitation services are now limited to only garbage collection as we practice what we preach, protecting our sanitation professionals by reducing our crews to two employees per truck to ensure social distance.
• Yard waste, recycling and bulk item pickup are suspended until further notice. You may use your recycling cart for garbage overflow, but please fill up your trash can first.
• You can drop off your recycling, yard waste or bulk items to the Dean Forest Landfill or Bacon Park Transfer Station.
• Street cleaning will happen as usual according to its regular schedule.
• On-street parking within the City will be free for the first hour to help support local businesses offering curbside
and takeout services. We messed this one up - we did not communicate well.
• You still need to use the meter or Park Savannah app to access the first free hour.
• With the Governor’s order allowing some previously closed businesses to reopen, our Parking Services department will enforce payment for these spots in downtown and midtown.
• Enforcement officers have masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to ensure they stay safe on the job.
• As the most intensive period in this crisis approaches over the next week and a half, we will continue to reduce the number of our employees working in our offices, close some offices and remotely operate others during the coming days to ensure our valued employees are as safe as possible.
• We have worked with the City Manager to offer our front-line employees a stipend for their work during this extraordinary period. We will share the details of this
program with the City Council during our regular meeting on Thursday.
• I want to thank those who are taking social distancing seriously. A lot of the areas where we saw big crowds two weeks ago were much better this past weekend. However, there were some events, some gatherings, some stores and businesses that did not seem to get the point. I am again asking our local seafood establishments and neighborhood discount and dollars stores to please control the number of people entering your business at any one time.
• 311 is still the number to call for issues related to the City of Savannah COVID19 response or you can also call (912) 651-6565.
• We have received numerous inquiries from Gulfstream employees and their concerned family members, and we have reached out to the company to make sure they are doing all they can to protect our citizens.
• Let’s continue working together to fight this virus by staying apart.
• I am asking Savannahians to continue to stay at home unless you are going to work or going to pick up some essential items. Please ensure that your children and those within your sphere of influence stay home.
• Secondly, find a way to do something extraordinarily nice for someone this week. I don’t have to tell Savannahians how to be kind or nice, but use this time to be a blessing to someone else this week.
• Third, I am asking all Savannahians to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by asking you to wear simple face coverings to slow the spread of the virus. It will help people who may have the virus - but do not know it - from transmitting it to others. Cloth face covering can be made from common household items or common materials. It is not necessary to wear surgical masks or N-95 respirators, as they are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.
• As an additional public service announcement, while you’re at home, please fill out your census. It takes less than five minutes.
• So far, less than 40 percent of our City’s residents have been counted. We must do better.
• By filling out the census and being counted, you’re making sure Savannah will have what it needs to take care of our community for the next 10 years.
• Visit 2020cenus.gov to fill out yours today.
• You can now watch your government at work from your own home.
• Your City Council held its first video meeting yesterday afternoon and will do the same for Thursday’s regular council meeting at 2 pm.
• You can watch these meetings on the City of Savannah Facebook, YouTube and SGTV Comcast Channel 8.
• Finally, I do not think this is coincidental, but I cannot help to underscore the significance and importance of this
week to millions of people around the world. Tomorrow, at sunset, our Jewish neighbors will celebrate Passover, the exodus, the freedom of slavery of the Israelites from Ancient Egypt that followed the Ten Plagues. For Christians, we celebrate Holy Week, which chronicles Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, culminating with his trial and crucifixion on Good Friday.
• While times may seem rough now, and they must have then, and while people must have been scared, confused and anxious about what was to come, we have the benefit of knowing that although there were plagues around the land, the children of Israel did escape Pharaoh. Although Jesus Christ was crucified and the world seemed dark, there was a resurrection.
• We just have to get from here to there: from our virtual bondage of social distancing to our actual freedom, and from the apparent death of hopes, dreams and livelihoods to see them resurrected bigger, better and stronger.
• Please continue to focus on what we will be and how we did it together. We will continue to keep the faith but follow the science.
• God bless you, and may God continue to bless the City of Savannah.