SAVANNAH, Ga. - The City of Savannah has once again made masks mandatory to try and reduce a rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations caused by the spread of the delta variant of the virus.
In a press conference Monday, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson announced that the mask mandate would be effective immediately.
"Here in Savannah, the rate of community transmission of COVID-19 hospitalizations and positivity rates have all substantially increased in our community since July 1, 2021," Johnson said.
Calling the rise "steep and alarming," Johnson said the case rates are considered high and very likely to keep increasing. The mayor also cited a 7-day rolling average of positive cases reported at 62.6, the highest the number has been since March.
"We find ourselves in a place and position that we thought we had put in our rearview mirror," Johnson said.
The new mandate requires everyone in Savannah to wear a mask indoors when they are with people outside of immediate family, regardless of immunization status. At this time, Johnson says the city will still allow public gatherings so long as proper safety precautions are taken.
"I know the question will come - here we go again - are we effectively punishing those who did the right thing and took the vaccine? The answer is yes, we probably are," he said. "But the minority is being punished because of the inaction of the majority. We have the ability to change our own fate, our own destiny, by doing what we can to improve our vaccination rates."
The mayor said he will remove the mandate when the science says that it is safe to not wear masks.
According to the latest numbers from the Georgia Department of Health, the Peach State reported over 1,500 new cases of the virus and 70 new hospitalizations.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Gov. Brian Kemp did not comment on Savannah's new mandate but said that Kemp "has consistently urged Georgians to consult with their medical provider and get vaccinated. The vaccines are the safest and most effective way for all Georgians to return to normal."
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