Timeline of City Actions

Please note this page has remained up for a record of city actions during the initial stages of the pandemic, for the most current info please proceed to the Re-Opening Plan Page. 

December 2019: A novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China, causing outbreaks of the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

January 21: First confirmed case of coronavirus in the United Sates in the state of Washington.

January 31: The Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declares a public health emergency for the entire United States to aid the nation’s healthcare community in responding to 2019 novel coronavirus.

March 2: First confirmed cases of coronavirus in Georgia.

March 2: Mayor Johnson addresses COVID-19 in weekly media availability.

March 5: Mayor Johnson holds roundtable discussion with representatives from the Georgia Department of Public Health - Coastal Health District, CEMA, Memorial Hospital, St. Joseph’s/Candler, members of the St. Patrick’s Day Committee, Visit Savannah and other local leaders regarding local preparations for COVID-19 and St. Patrick’s Day.

March 9: Mayor Johnson provides status report to Council about COVID-19 after briefing from Department of Public Health; City Manager distributes Mayor’s email to all City departments.

March 11: World Health Organization announces COVID-19 categorized as a pandemic.

March 11: Media Conference – Mayor Johnson announces St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Parade, the second largest in America, cancelled.

March 12: City Council meeting holds regular meeting; Mayor Johnson provides coronavirus update.

March 13: President of the United States proclaims COVID-19 outbreak in the United States constitutes a national emergency.

March 13: City Manager provides email update to City Council, including Modified Operations Plan for special events, planned phasing to reduce public access to buildings, added sanitization plan for buildings, increased precautionary use of PPE (sanitization, masks, gloves) for employees, and suspension of Civic Center scheduled shows. City Manager suspends any disconnection of water services and waives penalties and interest during emergency time.  Other payments and penalties for licenses due after March 15 can be deferred until later date.

March 13: City Manager provides email update to City Council based on restrictions imposed by Courts and County Detention Center.

March 14: Governor Brian Kemp declares Georgia’s first-ever Public Health State of Emergency, deploying resources to Georgia cities and counties. The Order: Required certain individuals with increased risk for complications from COVID-19 to isolate, quarantine or shelter in place;  required all bars and night clubs to close; banned all gatherings of 10 or more people unless a minimum of six-feet between individuals could be maintained at all times; and empowered the Department of Health to close entities for non-compliance.    

March 14: Mayor Johnson provides social media video update on City operations in response to COVID-19.

March 15: City Manager’s Office re-issues City of Savannah Emergency Operations Plan for a Pandemic Incident (Annex J) through Savannah Emergency Management Office (David Donnelly, Director). The 2018 Plan guides a coordinated and comprehensive response to any pandemic, but focuses on COVID-19 as an immediate threat. City begins implementation of operations phase, communications, guidance to maintain healthy workers and workplaces, disease precautions, implementation of PPE and planning for recovery.

March 16: City Manager sends email update to Council that confirms that no formal nor informal celebration will take place after cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival.

March 16: Office of Public Communications issues its Crisis Communications Plan for Pandemic COVID-19, “to reassure, support and educate the City of Savannah as we wade through this pandemic.”

March 16: Mayor Johnson convenes a meeting of the community’s homeless agencies to discuss a coordinated approach to ensure adequate shelter, food and care for the homeless and displaced in the community.

March 17: Media Conference/Roundtable Discussion with Mayor Johnson, Director of Coastal Health District, City Manager and other City staff regarding COVID-19.

March 17: Mayor Johnson participates in conference call with Governor Kemp and Georgia Hub Cities Mayors to discuss COVID-19.

March 17: City Manager updates Council via email about updates to City website and links to COVID-19 information for citizens, cancellation of all special events (53 events, including many weddings, fundraisers and festivals), draft of Telework Policy, expansion of 3-1-1 information network, new city protocols for access to buildings and begins tracking of expenses for federal reimbursement with national state of emergency.

March 17: Office of Public Communications prints public notices and places on all City buildings about restrictions and precautions. The City of Savannah remains open for business but under a new set of precautionary rules.

March 18: City Manager sends email to Council about City’s partnering with Second Harvest Food Bank for a food distribution event (2,000 cars served).

March 19: Mayor Johnson issues Declaration of Local Emergency for Savannah, implementing strict measures intended to slow the pace of the COVID-19 outbreak and expands upon state’s order. The Mayor’s declaration mandated business closures and imposed additional restrictions in addition to implementing other measures to limit gatherings. Businesses required to close included: gyms, fitness centers, movie theaters, live-performance venues, bowling alleys, arcades, guided tours, bars and nightclubs. Restaurants were required to reduce seating capacity by 50% for dine-in services. The City offered free parking for the first hour at all public metered parking and parking garages to allow for food-pickup. Funerals with more than 10 mourners were encouraged to conduct graveside services or postpone indoor services. The declaration also allowed for the activation of emergency operation plans for the City by the City Manager.

March 19: City Manager issues closure plans for community centers and the Cultural Arts Center to restrict public access; Civic Center events suspended until further notice.

March 19: With closure of Golden Age Centers, which provides more than 600 meals to elderly, City of Savannah and Senior Citizens, Inc. partner to deliver meals to local seniors due to community center closures. Between Golden Age and City-funded meals for the elderly, more than 1,200 meals are served daily.

March 19: Mayor and City Manager provide video update to City of Savannah employees regarding COVID-19.

March 19: Mayor Johnson begins holding daily conference calls with City Council members to provide COVID-19 updates and allow for Council discussion.

March 20: First confirmed case of COVID-19 in Chatham County.

March 20: Mayor holds news conference about his declaration of local state of emergency.  

March 20: By direction of City Manager, City departments begin to limit public access to facilities, including Revenue, Development Services, Capital Projects Management, Planning and Urban Design, Office of Business Opportunity, Savannah Entrepreneurial Center, Traffic Engineering Office and Office of Special Events, Film and Tourism. Also, the Coastal Georgia Center, City Hall, Savannah Morning News and the W.W. Law Archives remain open to visitors by appointment only. City builds kiosks to allow drop-off payments at all payment sites and encourages on-line payments by eliminating all transaction fees.

March 21: City Manager sends email update to City Council about increased measures in Recorders Court to improve social distancing.

March 21: Mayor Johnson provides social media video update on City operations in response to COVID-19.

March 22: Chairman Al Scott signs resolution declaring State of Emergency in Chatham County.  Distributed to Council by email.

March 23: Non-essential City staff eligible for telework begin performing job assignments remotely. About 10%-12% of workforce set up for teleworking. Staggered shifts begin in some departments to maintain social distancing.

March 23: City Manager provides email update to Council on postponement of tax sales, City closures and Airport status report.

March 23: City begins providing water buffaloes for drinking water and hand washing at area homeless camps. Tourism Leadership Council partners to provide soap.

March 23: City Manager sends email to Executive Leadership Team with 10 Recommendations on dealing with COVID-19.

March 24: Mayor Johnson issues First Amended Declaration of Local Emergency with restrictions for “Shelter at Home” to enhance and escalate the City’s action plan to minimize exposure to COVID-19 as a result of the continued spread of the disease throughout Georgia, including four confirmed positive cases in Chatham County. The amendment permits travel only for essential activities, essential government functions and/or to operate essential businesses and further defines each of the essential classifications.     

March 24: Media Conference – Weekly COVID-19 Update.

March 24: City Manager sends protocols developed for City departments to request PPE and supplies from Central Warehouse during COVID-19.

March 25: Mayor Johnson participates in White House COVID-19 Briefing Call with U.S. Surgeon General and Senior Administration Officials.

March 25: Mayor Johnson announces additional measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to include the closure of barbershops, beauty parlors, nail and personal care salons effective 3 p.m. on March 27. Also announces additions to the “essential business” classification of the amended emergency declaration to include: pawn shops, title pawn shops, landscaping services and moving services and provided additional clarifications for other businesses.

March 26: City announces free on-street parking to remove pressure from downtown parking and encourage more take-out meals at local restaurants.

March 26: City Council held its first-ever remote City Council meeting via ZOOM teleconference.

March 26: Mayor sends letter to Congressional Delegation in support of amendments to federal CARES Act in hopes of lowering funding threshold from governments that serve populations of 500,000 or more.

March 27:  City Manager sends email update to all City employees with reminders consistent with CDC guidelines to maintain a safe workforce and healthy workplaces by following recommended health guidelines and social distancing practices.

March 28: Mayor Johnson provides social media video update on City operations in response to COVID-19.

March 30: Risk Management Office issues protocol for handling any COVID-19 exposure to City employees.

March 31: Media Conference – Weekly COVID-19 Update.

April 1: Chief Operating Officer develops idea of Job Board to repurpose employees in closed City offices to other City services in need.  Job Board implemented April 1.

April 2: Governor Kemp issues a state-wide Shelter in Place Order, which provided less restrictive measures for controlling the spread of COVID-19 than emergency orders issued by many local governments in Georgia, including Savannah. The Governor’s order suspends all emergency orders previously issued by Georgia cities. Under the Governor’s order, residents and visitors are required to shelter in place unless participating in “essential services” such as going to the grocery store or gas station; participating in outdoor activities; leaving for health, safety or emergency purposes, and work. The order also spells out allowable operations for businesses that provide critical or essential services to the public, including nursing homes, hospice care and food distribution, and it includes a number of employee safety guidelines for those required to work.

April 2: Mayor Johnson answers residents’ COVID-19 questions during a live Virtual Town Hall meeting on WTOC-TV.

April 2: Human Resources Department implements FMLA Extended Leave Police and Expanded FMLA Leave in accordance with federal law. Approximately 35 employees qualify.

April 2: City advises funeral homes that graveside services will be limited to 10 persons so as to maintain social distancing.

April 2: Savannah Police Department begins to use technology to communicate the need for social distancing, including LED signs at Forsyth and Daffin Parks and use of drone.

April 3: Mayor Johnson issues Extension of First Amended Declaration of Local, to extend the amended emergency declaration until April 30th to ensure appropriate local measures are in place, should the Governor’s April 2nd Order expire or terminate.

April 3: City Manager sends email update to all City employees, including reminders about personal and workplace protection, summary of Governor’s “shelter in place” order, confirmation of cancellation of 2019-2020 school year, available childcare through YMCA programs, expanded FMLA and Sick Leave Benefits, and reminder about the Job Board.

April 3: City Manager sends email to advise Council about administrative approval of alcoholic beverage license applications (as per included in Mayor’s Declaration).

April 3: City announces free on-street parking for first hour parked in the downtown area.

April 4: Mayor Johnson provides social media video update on City operations in response to COVID-19.

April 6: City Manager directs Sanitation Services to limit routes to garbage collection only to ensure social distancing in vehicles (two-person limit).  Recycling, yard waste, bulk item pickup and special collections temporarily suspended.

April 7: Media Conference – Weekly COVID-19 Update.

April 7: City Manager sends email update to all City employees with reminders about procedure for diagnosing effects, update on self-quarantine data, increased availability of PPE supplies, and Job Board availability. Reports to Council of confirmed case.

April 8: Assistant to City Manager sends email to all City employees and City Council about availability of Emotional Support Line during pandemic. 

April 9: City Council holds its first-ever council meeting via ZOOM, video conferencing technology.

April 9: City Manager issues Administrative Order for Hazard Pay for all employees.  Notifies via email to all City employees. Notifies Council via email, including financial analysis with projections of COVID-19 fiscal impact to FY 2020 budget. Hazard Pay effective April 12.

April 11: Mayor Johnson provides social media video update on City operations in response to COVID-19.

April 13: City accepts lead with coordination through Chatham Emergency Management Agency for homeless services, including distribution of MREs to camps (City acquired 4,500) and prepared boxed meals through agreement with Savannah Convention Center for 400 meals daily for distribution points (after Emmaus House closed). Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan arranges for donation of 200 tents, and City identifies lot next to Tiny House Village for temporary homeless site for overflow and isolation, as needed.

April 14: City Manager provides email update to Council with report of first confirmed case (Police Officer) who’s following of protocol kept her in quarantine until results released; to date 37 employees self-quarantined, 25 tests, 21 returned to work. City is beginning agreement with St. Joseph’s/Candler for 24-hour testing and results effective this week with protocols to ensure return to work and provide peace of mind to co-workers.

April 14: City Manager provides email update to all City employees with latest testing counts, self-quarantine update and reminders about personal care and workplace sanitization.

April 14: City receives notice from HUD of $693,166 in supplement Emergency Solutions Act funds for homeless services through federal CARES Act.

April 14: City Manager sends email notice to City Council about boat ramp closures.

April 16: City Manager sends email update to all City departments with reminder about re-stocking PPE inventory ahead of predicted apex of cases and reminders about continued emphasis to employees about continuing precautionary measures and workplace sanitization.

April 17: City Manager sends email to Council that staff has worked out plan for one-week dry trash pickup by private contractor due to City’s suspension of dry trash service to maintain social distancing in all Sanitation Department vehicles. Contract service will help alleviate complaints because of yard cleaning from live oak leaves and other yard debris. Collection begins week of April 27. Office of Public Communications informs community.

April 18: Mayor Johnson provides social media video update on City operations in response to COVID-19.

April 20: City Manager sends email update to City Council about City’s pursuing grant opportunities through federal CARES Act and grant notification received to date, including $1.3M in CDBG funds and $693,000 in Emergency Solutions Grant funds.

April 20: Mayor Johnson interviewed on CNN

April 21: City Manager sends email update to all employees with information about new testing protocols for 24-hour turnaround through partnership with St. Joseph’s/Candler.

April 21: Media Conference – Weekly COVID-19 Update; first virtual media conference with reporters attending via ZOOM

April 21: Mayor Johnson interviewed by CNN

April 21: Mayor Johnson interviewed by Roland Martin radio show

April 21: Mayor Johnson interviewed by Michelangelo Signorile radio show

April 22: Mayor Johnson interviewed by Fox news

April 22: Mayor Johnson interviewed by MSNBC

April 22: Mayor Johnson interviewed by CNN

April 23: Mayor Johnson interviewed by The Takeaway

April 23: Mayor Johnson interviewed by Cheddar

April 23: Mayor Johnson interviewed by The Daily Beast

April 24: Mayor Johnson interviewed by MSNBC

April 24: Mayor Johnson interviewed by The Daily DC CNN podcast

April 24: Mayor Johnson interviewed by Lavonia Perryman radio show

April 24: Mayor Johnson interviewed by NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Company)

April 24: Mayor Johnson interviewed by TV 2 Norway

April 24: Mayor Johnson interviewed by CBS News Radio LA

April 24: Mayor Johnson interviewed by CBS

April 25: Mayor Johnson provides social media video update on City operations in response to COVID-19.

April 25: Mayor Johnson interviewed by NPR

April 25: Mayor Johnson interviewed by MSNBC

April 27: Mayor Johnson interviewed by CNN

April 27: Mayor Johnson interviewed by BBC

April 27: Mayor Johnson interviewed by Der Spiegel German magazine

April 27: Mayor Johnson interviewed by CNBC

April 27: Mayor Johnson interviewed by Dallas radio show

April 28: Mayor sends letter to Congressional Delegation in support of House Resolution to lower federal CARES Act Level 4 funding to local governments with populations of 50,000 or more.

April 28: Virtual Media Conference – Weekly COVID-19 Update

April 28: Mayor Johnson interviewed by The Daily Beast