News Flash module icon

News Flash

City of Savannah Public Communications

Posted on: March 31, 2020

Talking points for: Mayor Van R. Johnson, II Mayor Johnson media conference- March 31, 2020

Mayor Johnson media conference – March 31, 2020 Talking points for: Mayor Van R. Johnson, II


  • Good morning and thank you for joining us and continuing to partner with us to make sure that the most up to date information about Savannah’s preparation for and response to COVID-19.

  • I want to take a moment to recognize and honor those who, by choice or circumstance, are on the front lines of this extraordinary event – health care professionals, in our hospitals and medical centers, police and fire professionals, members of the media, the trucking and transportation community, postal and delivery workers, sanitation and water treatment professionals, food service professionals, those work in grocery stores and those employed with essential businesses. You are the reason why we will win this war by being the life support for the rest of us to live. Thank you.

  • This is real. This virus is deadly. At this point, two local families have lost loved ones to COVID-19.

  • The latest numbers from the Department of Public Health show a total of 19 cases confirmed in Chatham County – add in neighboring counties and there are 57 cases in the Coastal Health District.

  • A lot of people may think, “oh, 57, not so bad.” Well, here’s some breaking news – confirmed cases does not mean total cases.

  • Without each Savannahian stepping up and taking personal responsibility – choosing to social distance and only go out for essential activities – this virus will spread like a wildfire throughout our community.

  • I have signed emergency orders that lay the groundwork for what each individual needs to do – the City is doing its part – now it is your turn.

  • Whether you’re 17 or 73, only YOU can stop this virus from decimating our community.

  • I am on daily conference calls with various partners, including the Coastal Health District, the Georgia Municipal Association, Mayors and health care professionals from across the country.

  • Your City Council has been working diligently in their districts on behalf of the City’s interests. We have daily conference calls on weekdays for almost the last two weeks. I will be recommending today, reducing these meetings to 2-3 times a week, as needs dictate.

  •   As you are aware, Savannah’s shelter-at-home order has now been in place for a week.

  • This order closed non-essential businesses, and Savannah’s Code Compliance Department has been working diligently to make sure people and businesses are taking these restrictions seriously.

  • On last Friday at 5:00 pm, beauty, barber and nail establishments were also ordered to close.

  • Last Thursday and Friday, our Code Compliance Officers issued 50 “notices to correct conditions” to non-essential businesses that were still open and therefore violating the order.

  • These notices let businesses know they aren’t following the order and allows them to come into compliance by closing.

  • If they decide not to close, officers then will issue a summons to Recorder’s Court, where the business could be fined up to $1,000 for each day they are in violation.

  • Yesterday, citations were issued—more on that in a moment.

  • Yesterday, Chatham County enacted additional safety measures for those entering our community.

  • Anyone who has recently traveled by ship, plane, bus or train is required to self-isolate for 14 days. They will fill out a questionnaire and have their temperature taken when they arrive.

  • CAT services are still available, but residents should only be using them for essential trips like medical appointments, grocery shopping or going to work. Passengers are encouraged to spread out on the buses.

  • City employees are still working to provide you with quality services, and we’re making sure they have the appropriate protective gear and sanitizing products to stay safe.

  • As a reminder, Savannah utility customers will not have their water shut off for non-payment through April 30. There is no curfew at this time and there are no City helicopters flying through the air spraying Lysol on everyone.

  • We want to make it clear that you still have to pay your water bill. This is a temporary solution to help those financially struggling during this time. If you can pay as usual, please do so.

  • Any fines incurred before this pandemic are also still due.

  • Many citizens and businesses have complied with our Emergency Order, and I thank them for that. So many of you have taken this crisis seriously, you have restricted your travel, you have stayed at home, you have closed your businesses or you have modified your business practices to comply with this legal order. Thank you.

  • But there are many of you – citizens and businesses - who have acted like this is some vacation, some game of hide- and-seek or some version of catch-me-if-you-can.

  • I rode by various parks and in Forsyth Park, particularly, saw the large gatherings of people, play team sports, eating, lounging, relaxing having a grand ol’ time.

  • I heard about and even got invited to parties and get-to- gethers in houses, apartments and backyards like it was the 4th of July.

  • I witnessed and received numerous reports of businesses operating outside and illegally of the Emergency Order – selling cars, conducting beauty, nail and barbering activities. If you don’t care about your customers, then at least care about your employees who could potentially take this virus home to those they love.


  • Finally, to those businesses that are deemed essential, please do whatever you can to protect your employees. During my visits to some of our big box stores and fast food restaurants, and after receiving concerns from various warehouses in our community, it is clear there are not enough proactive measures being taken to protect those who must work. Your bottom line is those who work for you. Please protect them.

  • We want nothing more than to protect you and those you love. Please listen to the advice of public health officials and stay home as much as possible. We are keeping the faith, but we are following the science.

  • We have tried to be very thoughtful and incremental in what we are doing, maintaining a very intentional balance between safety and freedom, between safety and our local economy, between safety and heavy-handed approaches.

  • Please be assured of the City’s resolve to protect our citizens. If some of these cavalier attitudes and actions do not change and things do not improve quickly, be assured that dramatically more restrictive actions will be ordered, which could include curfews and more closures. Savannah could be shut down in a way that has never been seen in our 287-year history.

  • Please, Please, Please – help us to help you.

  • God bless you and may God continue to bless the City of Savannah.

Facebook Twitter Email

Other News in City of Savannah Public Communications

Sanitation 2021 schedule distribution

Posted on: December 8, 2020

2021 budget public hearings rescheduled

Posted on: November 23, 2020

2021 budget retreat scheduled

Posted on: November 18, 2020

Mayor to announce HOLA Savannah taskforce

Posted on: September 30, 2020

Meet the Savannah City Manager finalists

Posted on: September 22, 2020

Savannah City Manager finalists selected

Posted on: September 8, 2020

Update: Curfew Lifted as of 6-1-20

Posted on: May 31, 2020

COVID-19 media briefings scheduled

Posted on: March 20, 2020