As part of efforts to safely reopen the local economy, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson today revealed a voluntary program to encourage local businesses to conform to CDC best practices in fighting COVID-19 — especially in the wearing of masks.
Called "Savannah Safe
," the program seeks commitments from local businesses to opt into a pledge for employees to wear masks at all times. In exchange, they receive a certificate from the City to display to the public.
The Mayor was frank that, while the program isn't mandatory, part of the point is to shame noncompliant businesses.
"If you walk into a business and they're not wearing masks, we want people to know about it," he said during the afternoon press conference.
The certificate, Johnson said, will "indicate to employees and customers that they are committed to maintaining an operation that's as safe as possible during this pandemic."
Other aspects of the pledge include honoring social distance requirements and disinfecting surfaces.
The Mayor said that "we know that masks do not prevent infection," but that the CDC conclusion is that masks keep sickness from spreading from the mask wearer to someone else.
Therefore, he said, if everyone is wearing masks as if they were infected, that will result in a lower rate of infection.
To help in the effort, Johnson said that the Bella Canvas company has donated 4,500 face coverings to the City of Savannah. Distribution of those masks will be announced at a later time.
The Mayor was also frank that in some ways efforts to be safe have been outstripped by events.
"The fact of the matter is that the state of Georgia is open. Folks are all over the place. They're returning to Savannah and that's something we cannot change," he said. "But we can have a dialogue about how to do this, and how to do it safely."
On the subject of tourism, Tourism Leadership Council President Michael Owens said "at present we still have several lodging facilities and attractions that haven't been able to open yet.... but those places that are operating have reasonably good business."
Owens said almost all the visitors are "drive-in business," mostly coming in for the weekend, with the beach at Tybee Island being a particular attraction.
But in general, Owens concluded that "We think it's going to be a long recovery road. It will be years until we return to the same business as before."