Savannah has reinstated its mask mandate, owing to the “steep” increases in daily Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations across the city and the state of Georgia.
The order is effective immediately and requires individuals in the city of about 145,000 people to wear masks in indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status, Mayor Van Johnson announced at a press conference on Monday. The mandate applies to places like city government buildings and school facilities.
The decision places the Atlantic coastal city alongside St Louis in Missouri, one of the US hotspots for the Delta variant of Covid-19, where a reinstated mask mandate went into effect on Monday, and the county of Los Angeles, which brought back its mask order earlier this month.
Johnson said the decision to bring back masks was in response to a “steep and alarming rise” in the level of new coronavirus cases and hospitalisations in Savannah and its surrounding counties in Georgia. This was due, he said, to factors including the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, gatherings and events like the Independence Day holiday and also because “many people have let their guard down” and become lax about public health guidelines.
Savannah’s relatively low vaccination rate, of 41 per cent of residents fully vaccinated, was probably also a contributing factor, he continued.
Johnson said he expected to be asked the question of whether the mandate was punishing the minority, and conceded that “Yes, we probably are.” However, “the minority are being punished because of the inaction of the majority,” he said.
Chatham county, which surrounds Savannah, has averaged almost 63 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week, up from a rate of 7.3 on June 28, Johnson said. The community transmission index, which reports new cases over a two-week period per 100,000 residents, has jumped to 230 from a level of 76 on July 9. More than 75 people in three Savannah hospitals were being treated for coronavirus, Johnson said.
Georgia has fully vaccinated 38 per cent of its population, ranking it 44th among US states and about 11 percentage points below the national average.
More than 11,729 new coronavirus cases have been reported in Georgia over the past week, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That is the sixth-highest amount among states over that period, but represents about 3.5 per cent of new infections nationally.
Adjusted for population, Georgia is averaging about 15.8 new cases per 100,000 people a day, the 13th-highest rate in the US, behind Utah and ahead of Arizona.