In a brief meeting today, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and local health and public safety officials made an effort to assure the public that the local St. Patrick's Day festivities are unlikely to be severely impacted by the spreading coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
"Currently there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spreading in our community," said Robert Thornton of the local chapter of the Georgia Department of Public Health. "If you're sick, we're asking you stay home."
The City's Susan Broker said the event is "full speed ahead."
"This is a very serious health concern but sometimes the fear is often worse than that," Mayor Johnson said. "I've lived during a time when SARS was going to kill everybody, Mad Cow disease, Ebola. The resilience of the human spirit is bigger than that."
Visit Savannah President Joe Marinelli said local hotel occupancy is still robust, and that "unless headlines change dramatically" no major change is expected.
Officials with both the City and Savannah's Waterfront say hand-washing/sanitizing stations will be added throughout the festival area.
A representative of the St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee says "kissing of the soldiers" is strongly discouraged, referring to a long local tradition of people running up to soldiers and other uniformed personnel marching in the parade to leave lipstick on their cheeks.
That practice has been discouraged by the U.S. Army and by parade officials for several years now regardless.
Mayor Johnson said he will check in with the Department of Public Health for updates at least twice a day until the festival. "As you know the situation is touch-and-go at this point."
The Mayor advised citizens to "bring your hand sanitizer... and don't kiss people you don't know."