Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Mayor Johnson warns of 'dramatically more restrictive actions' if social distancing not taken more seriously by citizens

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2020 at 10:21 AM

At a press conference this Tuesday morning, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson excoriated citizens who aren't observing social distancing "like it's a weird game of hide and seek."

Saying that while driving around, "Over the weekend I rode by various parks and I witnessed large gatherings of people playing team sports.... acting like it's Picnic in the Park. This is not acceptable."

Mayor Johnson said if the behavior continues, he will have no choice but to close all parks and institute a form of curfew. (Despite rumors to the contrary, no curfew is currently in effect.)

"If some of these cavalier attitudes and actions do not change and things do not improve quickly, please be assured dramatically more restrictive actions will be ordered," the Mayor warned.

"Savannah could be shut down in a way never before seen in our history. Please, please, please, help us to help you."

Johnson urged that the essential businesses who are still allowed to stay open to do a better job protecting employees from risk of infection.

He reiterated a previous observation that "Walmart has become the new club," referring to too much socializing by customers at places of business.

The Mayor said that Savannah's current 19 COVID-19 cases and two deaths as of this morning are "really a snapshot two weeks ago. We are living life two weeks behind the curve. What happens today we won't see for another two weeks," directly referencing "that foolishness in Forsyth Park" as a potential vector for future infections.

Johnson said that walking and exercising are fine, but "what we saw in Forsyth Park over the weekend was a party... my feeling is that people have been lulled into a false sense of security."

Monday, March 30, 2020

Chatham County to institute quarantine requirements for anyone entering by air, bus, train, or ship

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 1:52 PM

A State of Emergency has existed in Chatham County since March 22, but today Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott announced new measures intended to keep the COVID-19 virus from entering the county and spreading.

"This amendment goes a step further — it's a step that the mayors couldn't take on their own," he said.

Specifically, anyone entering the County by airplane, bus, train, or at the port will be given a "preliminary test on the way in. We will be checking their temperatures and they will fill out a questionnaire," Scott said.

This will include all those coming in on commercial airline flights.

"All persons entering Chatham County who have been on a cruise ship, airplane, bus or train are required to self-isolate for the next 14 days," said CEMA Director Dennis Jones.

"Any person showing fever or other symptoms of COVID-19 is required to seek immediate medical attention," Jones said.

"This may go as far as anything we've done locally, with the exception of canceling the St. Patrick's Day Parade," Chairman Scott said.

The March 22 declaration already required social distancing measures in county restaurants outside the City of Savannah, which has restricted restaurants within City limits to takeout only.

Bars are now closed throughout Chatham County and all municipalities within it.

Dr. Lawton Davis of the Coastal Georgia Health Department said Chatham County has seen a 300 percent increase in confirmed cases in just the last week.

"Some who focus on the numbers seem to believe we've been relatively lucky so far," Davis said. "Maybe we have, but we must not be complacent."

Davis said COVID-19 typically takes 3-6 weeks to show an "explosion" in cases after initially confirmed in an area.

"Our first cases were confirmed about a week and a half ago. I fully expect our numbers to increase very rapidly over the next several weeks," he said.  "And that only represents positive tests, where testing has been very limited."

Davis concluded with a cautionary note.

"To those of you who seem to think you're invincible, or that this is just a joke, please wake up." 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Hair care, nail salons must close under amended order

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 4:27 PM

While it was first considered one of the "essential businesses" allowed to remain open during Savannah's Shelter-In-Place order from Mayor Van Johnson, that's going to change.

"After receiving regulatory guidance from the state, barbershops, beauty parlors, nail and personal care salons will close on Friday, March 27, at 5 p.m.," a City spokesperson says.

Because that industry is largely regulated and permitted at the state level, it proved difficult to ascertain whether it could be included in a municipal order.

The order only applies to businesses within City of Savannah limits.

"Additional clarifications include pawn shops, title pawn shops, landscaping services and moving services are considered essential businesses and may remain operational. Vape stores are not permitted to stay open. Automobile dealerships can operate their service departments, but they may not operate their sales departments. Real estate maintenance and rental services and work to execute contracts currently in existence are allowed, but all other real estate work should be performed remotely," the City reports.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Shelter-at-home order given for City of Savannah; restaurants takeout only, non-essential travel prohibited

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 10:21 AM

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson this morning passed a shelter-at-home order, prohibiting all non-essential business and non-essential travel.

Dine-in restaurant services will be prohibited and restaurants will be limited to takeout only.

"If you're not working and you're not shopping for groceries, please stay home," Mayor Johnson said. "All travel except for essential travel is prohibited."

In addition, private gatherings outside of the members of a single household are prohibited.

The order goes into effect midnight tonight and stays in effect until April 8 or later if City Council orders.

Parks and squares will remain open for exercise purposes, but social distancing requirements should be followed. Tennis/basketball facilities must close.

"For better or worse this is our reality for the next couple of weeks. The only way to stem the threat is to remain at home as much as possible," he said.

Essential businesses include healthcare, grocery stores, media, gas stations, shipping services, social services, laundry, home care, residential and daycare facilities for seniors and children, professional services such as legal and accounting, restaurants (but only for delivery and carryout).

Hair and nail care can stay open, but with social distancing rules.

Liquor stores ARE considered essential businesses; many other cities instituting COVID-19 restrictions also put them in the essential category. This keeps those with addictions from going into sudden withdrawal and further challenging the healthcare system.

Private construction projects with a current permit can continue.

About Ga. Gov. Brian Kemp's executive order yesterday, the Mayor said "I don't feel it goes far enough."

But, "we're not shutting the city down," he said, "we're asking you to rediscover your home."

The order only applies to activities within the City of Savannah.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Nourish to provide free soap this Wednesday

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 11:08 AM

Nourish Natural Bath of Savannah announces a drive-thru soap distribution for Wed., Mar. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at their location at 5501 Abercorn St.

Each vehicle will receive one free liquid soap with no exceptions. Nourish asks that participants remain in their vehicle and prepare a spot in the backseat for staff to place the products.

"As there have been confirmed cases of this virus in Savannah, we would like to stress that the safety and well-being of our staff and the community are of our utmost concern during this time," says Kiley of Nourish. "Therefore, strict precautionary measures will be taken to keep our staff and the public safe with minimal face-to-face contact."

If you or someone you know would like to deliver complimentary soap to those with no vehicle access, please contact Kiley at 912-777-5479. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Chatham County declares state of emergency, mandates social distancing measures for restaurants and bars

Posted By on Sun, Mar 22, 2020 at 3:52 PM

After days of criticism for not doing so much earlier, Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott has signed a resolution declaring a State of Emergency in Chatham County effective immediately.

However, in some ways the measure still falls short of restrictions currently in effect in the City of Savannah.

Under today's order, "All eating establishments, bars, and nightclubs within the County shall reduce indoor seating capacity and ensure seating is sufficient to achieve 6 foot social distancing. If restaurants, bars, and nightclubs cannot achieve the 6 foot social distancing protocol they are ordered to close," a County spokesperson says.

The resolution calls for the "immediate closure of all indoor recreation, fitness and entertainment facilities. Restaurants capable of providing take-out, delivery or drive-through service are encouraged to increase these services to avoid in-house dining as much as possible."

The City of Savannah last week closed all bars which don't serve food, and prohibited all guided and walking tours. Funerals and weddings within City limits are strongly encouraged to be ten or fewer people.

Chatham Area Transit (CAT) remains operational throughout the County at this time. Citizens are encouraged to use public transit only when necessary to travel to and from work and when shopping for essential items.

The resolution will be in effect until April 22  or "shall be terminated in conjunction with the termination of Governor Kemp’s State of Emergency."

Leopold's Ice Cream announces new measures

Posted By on Sun, Mar 22, 2020 at 11:48 AM

To adapt to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, Leopold's Ice Cream has instituted new measures.

The dining room is closed and only six guests will be allowed inside the shops at once. Guests will not be able to sample before ordering.

The use of cones is suspended and ice cream will be served in to-go containers only.

Paper menus will not be available. Instead, guests can view the menu by scanning a QR code at the door, or by visiting the website: https://www.leopoldsicecream.com/flavors-menu/cafe-menu/

Additional sanitation stations are available at every location.

Curbside pickup is encouraged for food, beverage and ice cream. Visit the website to place an order or for additional details: www.leopoldstogo.com.

The Broughton Street location will be open from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. The airport kiosk will be open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., and the shop from 12 p.m. from 7 p.m.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Coastal Heritage Society sites to close

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 5:43 PM

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Coastal Heritage Society sites will be closed until further notice beginning March 21.

They include: Georgia State Railroad Museum, Harper Fowlkes House, Old Fort Jackson, Pin Point Heritage Museum, Savannah Children's Museum and Savannah History Museum.

Tybee closes beaches, halts open alcohol consumption

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 5:25 PM

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Tybee Island has closed its beaches and bans the open consumption of alcohol city wide. These restrictions took effect Friday, March 20, at 10 AM.

"While there have been no identified COVID-19 cases on Tybee Island, this latest move ensures that CDC-recommended precautions such as social distancing and limited gatherings are being followed," a City of Tybee spokesperson said.

While there were discussions of limiting access to the island via Highway 80. "Highway 80 is still open to traffic at this time," said Tybee Mayor Shirley Sessions

"We also have extended a grace period and suspended late fees for business/occupational licenses and utility bills," says Sessions. "You may continue to mail in your tax bills or put tax bills and water bills in the drop box in front of city hall."

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Mayor Johnson orders Savannah bars to close, limits restaurants to half-capacity and takeout only

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 4:16 PM

In a special City Council meeting today conducted by conference call, Mayor Van Johnson proposed to close all bars and nightclubs in Savannah that don't serve food, cease all guided and narrated tours, and limit restaurant service to fifty percent capacity or takeout service only.

Johnson signed the order, but will also seek approval by Council vote at the next Council meeting, expected Friday afternoon.

The measure goes into effect 8 a.m. this Saturday, March 21. A tentative end date is April 5, but that is subject to change.

The emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic would also
mandate the closing of all gyms, fitness centers, movie theaters and live performance venues in City limits.

"When we close businesses we're also closing livelihoods. There's simply not any work. We also recognize that at this time people still need to get to food... restaurants still have a very important role," Mayor Johnson said.

Another measure would make all parking in the City free for one hour, "to support takeout operations," the Mayor said.

The proposal happened hours after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms ordered a similar measure.

"A lot has happened since last Thursday," Johnson explained, referring to the meeting last week in which the St. Patrick's Day Parade and festival were canceled, but all businesses otherwise left open and unregulated.

"I have been on the phone with the governor's office and several phone calls with mayors," Johnson said. "We've also been on daily calls with the Coastal Health District."

The proposal comes the same day that the state of Georgia experienced a dramatic ramping-up of confirmed COVID-19 cases, with ten deaths. As of this writing, Chatham County still has no confirmed case.

The closest cases are in Beaufort County, S.C., and Glynn County and Effingham Counties in Georgia.

"This means there is asymptomatic transmission occurring in coastal communities," Johnson said of the Glynn County cases, which are within our regional health district. (The news about the Effingham case broke after the meeting's conclusion.)

"Not everyone with respiratory symptoms needs to be tested," Johnson said, pointing out that prioritization of testing is needed due to the relative scarcity of tests.

In other news, very limited drive-through testing for those who with PRIOR physician approval will be introduced this Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Jennifer Ross complex.

However, only 90 tests will be available, according to City Manager Pat Monahan. These tests will "not be for the general public" at large, the Mayor said.

Mayor Johnson urged anyone who thinks they need care to CALL FIRST before showing up at the ER or the doctor's office, to keep from infecting uninfected patients and staff at the location.

Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier expressed a concern about the quality of available information for the public.

"People have a lot of time to sit home and interject on social media," she said, suggesting that there should be one place to go to for credible local information.

Mayor Johnson recommended calling 311 for the time being, a City service expected to be ramped up significantly soon.

Connect Today 06.04.2020

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