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

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. It will not include travel restrictions for those driving vehicles.

“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.” 

Georgia Southern Economic Monitor: 2019 ends strong, substantial decline expected

Georgia Southern University’s latest Economic Monitor, analyzing data from the fourth quarter of 2019, reports that the Savannah metro economy ended strong in 2019, “however substantial decline is expected in the coming months” due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The regional economy will likely be, at best, flat in the first quarter of 2020, followed by a sharp contraction in the second quarter,” says Michael Toma, Ph.D., Fuller E. Callaway professor of economics.

“On the other side, pent-up consumer demand is expected to fuel a fairly rapid national and regional recovery that is expected to take root in the third quarter and blossom during the final quarter of 2020.” 

Growth in the Savannah metro economy accelerated in the fourth quarter of 2019, extending the gains of the previous quarter. Growth was stronger in port activity, electricity sales and tourism. 

“ In 2020, economic dislocation caused by virus containment and mitigation efforts will be substantial and layered on top of (and dominate) the already cautionary signal sent by the forecasting index,” the report says.

Employment in Savannah’s three-county metro area in the fourth quarter of 2019 was 186,300, reflecting a gain of 600 jobs from the previous quarter and 0.5% higher than year-ago data.

“Jobs in business and professional services continued to erode, shedding another 500 jobs and contributing to the loss of 2,200 jobs in the sector since the first-quarter peak of 22,600 workers,” the report says.

Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector was 27,700 at the close of the year.

Hourly wages in the private sector bumped up to $22.90, a gain of 1% during the year.

Homeless Authority collects donations for homeless

Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless Director Cindy Kelley renewed the Authority’s plea for help from the public in attempts to protect “one of the most vulnerable segments of the population from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Authority members have placed containers at each Savannah fire station and all Savannah and Chatham County police precincts for paper towels, toilet paper, masks, gowns and gloves.

“These items are in short supply and our homeless population, especially the more elderly members, have no way to access them,” Kelley said. “Hundreds of these people live in makeshift camps throughout the county where personal hygiene is challenged in normal times.”

Kelley says that “If members of the public could offer only one roll of towels or tissue, collectively we can make a huge difference.”

Public hand-washing stations are being set up in various areas of the city. A downtown hotel has also contributed 1,000 bars of soap to allow people to wash their hands.

“But it does little good when those clean hands are dried against clothing that may already be contaminated because we have nothing else to provide them,” Kelley said.

Chatham County is the second most homeless-populated region in Georgia.

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